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Are We Losing our Privacy?

Written By: Merle

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 http://www.truste.org/wizard/
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

http://www.truste.org/webpublishers/pub_join.htm

http://www.enonymous.com/default2.asp

http://www.secureassure.com

http://bbbonline.com/businesses/privacy/guide.html

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;

http://www.anonymizer.com/
http://www.privada.net/
http://www.freedom.net/

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

http://www.enonymous.com
http://www.privacyratings.org

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.)
http://www.mcpromotions.com
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
mailto:subscribe@mcpromotions.com

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