Big online-privacy study kicks off
March 10, 1999
by Kathleen Ohlson
Funded by companies and associations, the survey will look at electronic-commerce Web sites to gauge their privacy policies, Ernst & Young said in a statement.
For this year's study, 250 out of 7,500 consumer-oriented Web sites will be randomly selected, said Brian Tretick, Ernst & Young's senior manager for electronic-commerce services in Vienna, Va. Testers will go through over 30 questions for each of the sites examined, which will include those in retail, entertainment and Web portals, Tretick said. He declined to give specific names.
Last March, a study conducted by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said 92% of the Web sites surveyed collected some personal information from visitors, but only 14% of the sites posted their data collection practices for users to be able to read, Ernst & Young said.
The FTC "was disappointed last year" that most Web sites didn't have any kind of privacy statement, considering "we were very easy graders," said Dana Rosenfeld, assistant director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. Up until that point, there was "no organization on the part of the industry" to state privacy policies, Rosenfeld said. Self-regulation didn't come until after the survey. But so far, these sites have made "a substantial amount of progress," she added.
With the current survey, the FTC will see exactly "how successful self-regulation has been" and will use the survey results to decide "whether to recommend legislation on [consumer] privacy protection" for these sites, Rosenfeld said.
Meanwhile, in a separate privacy-related announcement, the online division of the Better Business Bureau, BBBOnLine, said it's working with Microsoft Corp. The two will develop Microsoft Passport, a single network sign-in, registration and wallet that provides privacy, security and personalization, according to a statement from BBBOnLine.
Microsoft's GUID sparks fears of privacy invasion
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Ernst & Young LLP
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