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WEB HOSTING ARTICLES

You and Your Privacy
By: Bruce Coker
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    2008-09-10

    Table of Contents:
  • You and Your Privacy
  • Policies in practice
  • Current Policies
  • Taking back control

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    You and Your Privacy - Policies in practice


    (Page 2 of 4 )

    In any walk of life, the act of collecting and storing information about people carries with it a burden of responsibility. This is as true on the Internet as anywhere else despite the perceived, if illusory, anonymity of the web. In addition to their legal obligations, ISPs and site owners have a moral duty to act responsibly with regard to their visitorsí personal information.

    This duty starts with a privacy policy, the purpose of which is to provide an open declaration of the organization's or siteís information practices. The policy should, as a minimum, state what personal data will be collected, to whom and under what circumstances it may be disclosed, the uses to which it may be put, and what measures are in place to protect it. The policy may also describe any technologies, such as cookies, that the site uses to gather and track personal or behavioral data.

    So should you trust a site that has a privacy policy? Well, itís certainly true to say that itís a good start. It demonstrates that the siteís owners and developers have at least thought about privacy issues and taken the trouble to write down their practices. This much certainly isnít true of every site on the web, many of which still display no policy and continue to take a cavalier attitude towards their visitorsí privacy. However, not all privacy policies are created equal.

    In a recent Guardian article, Wendy Grossman relates the story of a site from which she attempted to buy a light bulb, whose policy claimed the right to keep her informed of a whole range of products and services by email, phone, SMS, picture messaging and any other method you could think of. When questioned, the site in question claimed that their published policy wasnít really an accurate statement of their policy at all, but an off-the-shelf document theyíd used for their own legal protection rather than in the interests of their customers.

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