December 17, 1999 4:00 PM PST
Top Web sites compromise consumer privacy
"[Online] consumers are more at risk today than they were in 1997," Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), said in a report issued today. Rotenberg cited extensive customer profiling and intrusive marketing techniques, such as the use of "cookies," among the factors causing higher risk. Cookies track user browsing and shopping habits online.
"Anonymity, which remains crucial to privacy on the Internet, is being squeezed out by the rise of electronic commerce," he said.
The report also focused on retailers' compliance with "Fair Information Practices''--guidelines that provide basic privacy protection for consumers--which none of the companies in the survey addressed properly, according to EPIC.
Rotenberg said that "legally enforceable standards of privacy are necessary to ensure compliance with Fair Information Practices, and new techniques for anonymity are necessary to protect online privacy."
"The stated policies of most big shopping sites run the gamut from bad to atrocious," said Jason Catlett, president of Junkbusters, a privacy advocacy firm. "People should have the right to buy without being tracked and without having their personal information sold."