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Are We Losing our Privacy?

By Merle
Posted Saturday, November 27, 2004

If you spend any amount of time online you've heard about "privacy policies." Privacy issues are becoming a major concern online. Every time you visit a website, fill out a form, or purchase an online product or service, you're giving out personal information. Did you ever stop and wonder what website owners are doing with that information?

The information collected can be sold to third parties -- usually ad agencies and marketers -- or kept by the site owners themselves for use
in creating a profile of your preferences and tastes.

You might think if you've never filled out a form or even given out your e-mail address they have nothing on you. Think again. Information can be gathered about you every time you log onto the Net. Certain types of information can be learned about you "invisibly" that you're not even aware of such as:

1) Your IP Address (the address given to your PC by your ISP whenever you log on).

2) The type of PC you have

3) The Browser you are using

4) Operating System you're running

5) Domain Registered Name

With more and more sites gathering information it's more important than ever to implement your own privacy policy and to be aware of others' policies when giving them your information.

A privacy policy is a statement or article that spells out what you do with any personal data collected by your website. Although not mandatory it is a good idea to implement one on your site if you collect any kind of personal data from visitors to your website. A privacy policy also will make your site guests feel more comfortable sharing their information with you, knowing you won't sell it to the highest bidder.

So what components make up a privacy policy?

1) Clearly state what information you are collecting and if you share it with any third parties.

2) Give a way for site visitors to change any information given now, at a later date.

3) Clearly state how you are storing the collected information.

4) Information on how to opt out of any future mailings from your company.

5) If your site uses cookies this must be disclosed.

Use simple wording in your policy instead of high tech language, and don't collect any information that you really don't need. It's important to keep up on any new laws regarding privacy policies in case you need to modify it later on.

If you need help creating a policy you can use Truste's online wizard at ( This will give you a good starting base and you can edit the final product to fit your site's needs. After creating it make sure you link to it from every page on your site.

If you think that implementing a privacy policy isn't important, take a look at these statistics gathered by Forrester Research:

90% of online consumers want to control how their personal information is being used.

67% of consumers have reservations about giving out personal information online.

The government is trying to stay out of passing mounds of regulations on privacy issues, preferring "self regulation" instead. In 1998 they did pass "The Children's Online Privacy Act" (COPPA), making it mandatory that sites reveal how they deal with information received from minors without parental consent. European countries are much more strict when it comes to Internet Privacy Laws then the US.

If you do create a privacy policy and use the information collected in a different manner than stated in that policy, you may be held liable by The Federal Trade Commission. This type of deception is a violation of the FTC Act, and is a very serious offense. So if you implement a policy make sure you stick to what it says.

Many of the privacy site leaders offer a privacy seal program. If after creating your policy you think it has what it takes to be certified, check out





Becoming certified is an added plus for any commercial website and will help alleviate any fear of sharing information on the part of your website guests.

So how do you protect yourself while you're online? First, by being aware that every move you make may be recorded. Second, always read a site's privacy policy so you know what's being done with the information you do provide, if any. If you'd like to keep sites from gathering "invisible information" about you such as your IP address, operating system, etc., you may want to look into an anonymous browsing service which conceals your identity while surfing. Check out;

( ( (

If you'd like to find out if a certain site has a privacy policy in place surf over to

( (

Remember, the temptation for website owners to sell personal information to third parties is high online due to the demand for that information by advertisers. Make sure you're doing your part by being aware of who you're giving your information to, and knowing what they are doing with it.

About the Author
Merle's Cyber Promotions (M.C.) ( Creating Visibility Online for Small Business... because just having a site isn't enough. Visit the site to receive FREE e-books packed with marketing & promotional tips that will help your site get traffic. Also subscribe to MC Promotions Press Newsletter to subscribe


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