You've Got Nothing to Worry About

In contrast to Federal Trade Commission figures from 2000, the Progress & Freedom Foundation's survey of 400 commercial Web sites found those sites were, in general, more forthcoming in regards to privacy issues and used better privacy practices.

We'd like to believe that this is because companies everywhere realized they were unfairly taking advantage of the trust and confidence of their users and simultaneously reversed direction, recognizing and respecting our rights. But we know this isn't the case. Perhaps our personal information didn't turn out to be the key which unlocked the treasure chest for failing dot-coms, turning them into profitable businesses. This would make a certain amount of sense, but the identity of the sponsors of the study cast a shadow of doubt on this.

As it turns out, the Progress & Freedom Foundation is an industry-sponsored group, which among other things lobbies for a non-regulated online marketplace. Among their more questionable assertions, they state that not only are more sites posting detailed privacy statements, but they "are now following through on them." And how exactly do they know this? Are they privy to the unpublicized practices and inner workings of every dot-com? Or did these statistics just come from the privy.

So, are privacy policies more readily attainable and readable, or are dot-coms just paying lip service to the latest "consumer trend"? Do we really have nothing to fear from e-commerce sites? It appears the jury is still out deliberating on this one.

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