Apparently, people aren’t as leery about dealing with “shady characters” as you might think. Carnegie Mellon University recently concluded a study in which they found that people were less likely to reveal things to websites that look official (even when that’s just a matter of what logo’s used) than to one that looks like it might be run by people who’ll abuse your trust.
That’s really important for people who want to run honest businesses, as odd as it might seem. Even though I’m not a psychologist, I’d say that the reason the study had the results they did is that people have, for whatever reason, an inherent distrust of anything they perceive as “The Man”, while they don’t mind sharing anything when they feel they’re sharing it in confidence like they would to a friend.
Obviously, no honest site wants to look like they’re only there to use people’s data to rob or defraud them. However, this would seem to indicate that they shouldn’t look too polished, either. If people are more ready to share things with a site that looks dubious than with one that looks official, it’s safe to assume that they aren’t willing to risk anyone in a position of authority to coming after them as much as they are willing to risk being robbed.
This ties in to the issues of online safety raised in previous posts on this blog on the second and eighth. People who’ve spent their entire lives in the Internet age are generally more trusting with their information, in whatever form, than people who remember life before computers talked to each other as a matter of course. And nobody wants to deal with a lot of the extra steps they have to take when dealing with some sites that are supposed to be safer because of the extra, proscribed measures they take to that end.
So, for a company to be successful at getting all the information it wants, you apparently need to buddy up with people rather than look like you’re certified and approved. I can’t say that I like that idea, because it’s hard to tell the online company that’s your buddy from the identity thief that’s just looking for a way to get into your bank account. Whether this will lead to an epidemic online, though, I don’t know yet.