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Leader: Fear sells?

At this rate, it won't for much longer
Written by silicon.com staff, Contributor

At this rate, it won't for much longer

Security companies have long been aware there is money to be made from pedalling fear and uncertainty - and it seems 2007 will be no different.

In recent months we've seen research which suggests the greatest terror on planet earth is the requirement to submit your credit card details online. And just today we've seen the latest piece of research along these lines, punted out predictably enough by a company with a vested interest in securing online transactions.

A company called 3V in this case has conducted research which shows consumers are more worried about identity theft than gun crime, climate change and hospital superbug MRSA.

Which proves nothing because establishing how afraid somebody is of something is no guide of how big a threat it actually poses - take early man's fear of the sky falling in.

Of course there are risks attached to shopping online which silicon.com has covered in detail over the years but such research does not exactly compare like with like, nor does it take into account risk, probability or exposure - or any kind of common sense approach to the subject.

We object to this approach - in part because simply quantifying the fear does nothing to allay it or treat the causes of people's concern. What it does do - because fear often motivates people to make purchases, in this case of online security technology - is ascertain the potential size of an industry sector.

This company 3V is not alone - we see this sort of 'fear' message from tech vendors, security vendors in particular, too much.

Isn't there some other, more balanced way they could incite interest in their products? For if we as journalists are growing weary of the 'fear message' you can bet the people buying IT - who are perhaps even more inundated with vendor marketing messages than us - are becoming immune to such tactics.

And if that's true, fear won't sell for much longer.

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