Survey: More Web Sites Post Privacy Policies

FRAMINGHAM (04/11/2000) - A survey released today shows that Web sites are increasingly informing consumers about what they will do with personal information they collect, but that 77% of the busiest sites still have no stated privacy policy.

The survey of 30,000 of the most heavily trafficked Web sites shows a marked improvement over the Federal Trade Commission's 1998 report. That report, which looked at 1,400 sites, found that while 85% of sites collected personal data, only 14% informed consumers about their data-sharing policies and only 2% had a stated privacy policy.

Although the number of Web sites with posted privacy policies remains low, that rate increases sharply among the busiest Web sites, according to the survey, conducted by San Diego-based enonymous.com, a venture-capital-backed company that focuses on Web privacy issues. Of the 1,000 most heavily visited sites, 63% posted some type of policy, the survey report said.

Enonymous.com's findings come at a time when Internet privacy has been a source of growing debate, and the organization said the results suggest that Web sites are taking consumers' concerns to heart.

"The main conclusion one should draw from this report is that privacy on the Internet is evolving, and apparently improving," the report stated.

The survey found that government sites lead the way in informing visitors about what will be done with any personal information gathered, with 69% having a posted privacy policy. A quarter of dot-com sites had a stated policy, followed by dot-net, dot-org and dot-edu sites, with 15%, 14% and 3%, respectively.

The Enonymous.com survey rated Web sites on a four-star system. It found that only 3.5% of sites have the most stringent policy, stating they won't contact a visitor without his or explicit permission and won't share personally identifiable information.

Nearly 8% of sites with stated policies said they may contact a site visitor or share personal information without the consumer's permission.

Although a growing number of sites are posting their policies, the statements are doing little to boost privacy and protect consumers' interests, said Jason Catlett, president of Green Brook, N.J.-based Junkbusters Corp., a privacy watchdog.

"The survey accurately reflects that privacy policies are not delivering a lot of privacy," he said.

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