Feeds

Yank consumer report underscores EU privacy concerns

Great timing, eh?

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Reducing security risks from open source software

As electronic privacy negotiations between the US and EU deteriorate further in acrimonious deadlock, one of Uncle Sam's own has tossed a bit of ammunition to the opposition.

The Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Centre (EPIC) issued a report Friday, Surfer Beware III: Privacy Policies without Privacy Protection, which finds that America's much-touted policy of self regulation does little to protect consumers' online privacy, just as the European Commission has suspected all along.

This is the third in a series of privacy surveys the organisation has conducted. The first EPIC survey, Surfer Beware: Personal Privacy and the Internet, provided a basis for the US Federal Trade Commission's subsequent review of online privacy practices, published in 1998. This time around EPIC looked at the one-hundred most popular shopping Web sites as listed by 100hot.com, which tracks Web site popularity by the number of homepage hits.

"On balance, we think that consumers are more at risk today than they were in 1997, when we first examined privacy practices on the Web," EPIC Director Marc Rotenberg said. Among the survey's findings:

  • Only 19 of the one-hundred sites surveyed belonged to industry self-regulation programmes such as TRUSTe or the Better Business Bureau Online.
  • A mere 23 sites solicited "opt-in" consent by consumers before subsequent collection and use of their personal information.
  • Just 20 companies appeared to limit the use of personally identifiable information to that required for the transaction.
  • Thirty-two sites allowed users to view and correct personal information such as their mailing address, e-mail address, or telephone number.
  • A whopping 86 per cent of the sites surveyed used cookies. Two sites - Tower Records and Kenneth Cole - did not permit users to visit their sites without generating cookies. "[Consumer] profiling is more extensive and the marketing techniques are more intrusive. Anonymity, which remains crucial to privacy on the Internet, is being squeezed out by the rise of electronic commerce," Rotenberg declared.

    He added that "legally enforceable standards.... and new techniques for anonymity are necessary to protect online privacy," which sounds remarkably like the official EC line. Either he's sleeping with the enemy, or the EC regulators are actually right for a change.

    Either way, this report is a timely illustration to a disagreement that could possibly end in a trade dispute and eventual WTO intervention, a potential outcome sufficiently disagreeable to get both sides negotiating in good faith, one would hope. ®

Eight steps to building an HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled
Auntie tight-lipped as major outage rolls on
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
White? Male? You work in tech? Let us guess ... Twitter? We KNEW it!
Grim diversity numbers dumped alongside Facebook earnings
Bose says today IS F*** With Dre Day: Beats sued in patent battle
Music gear giant seeks some of that sweet, sweet Apple pie
HP, Microsoft prove it again: Big Business doesn't create jobs
SMEs get lip service - what they need is dinner at the Club
ITC: Seagate and LSI can infringe Realtek patents because Realtek isn't in the US
Land of the (get off scot) free, when it's a foreign owner
Amazon Reveals One Weird Trick: A Loss On Almost $20bn In Sales
Investors really hate it: Share price plunge as growth SLOWS in key AWS division
Dude, you're getting a Dell – with BITCOIN: IT giant slurps cryptocash
1. Buy PC with Bitcoin. 2. Mine more coins. 3. Goto step 1
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.