FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PRIVACY ADVOCATES WARN ECOMMERCE SITES AGAINST UNFAIR PROFILING -- Consumer groups detail best practices for online merchants to protect their customers' privacy
San Francisco--November 15, 1999--Privacy groups today urged ecommerce sites to spurn the intrusive and unfair information practices of online advertising networks. Speaking here at Personalization.com's Summit meeting, Junkbusters Corp. President Jason Catlett issued a warning to Web merchants: ``Consumers, regulators and legislators are becoming increasingly unwilling to tolerate companies that amass huge electronic dossiers from consumers' movement in cyberspace. Businesses that use or assist this surveillance are pitching their tents in a hurricane zone.''
During hearings in Washington last week at the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Commerce, privacy advocates called on the FTC to halt online profiling until legal protections are established. "Consumers and the government should realize that companies that are collecting detailed information from online consumers without their knowledge and consent are not personalizing -- they are invading privacy," stated Andrew Shen, Policy Analyst at the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC). (See http://www.epic.org or http://www.junkbusters.com/news/ for details.)
The privacy groups today issued specific advice for ecommerce and media sites.
* Don't buy or barter profiles or identity from advertisers or other merchant sites. Wait for the customers to identify themselves and tell you what they want.
* Don't sell or share profiles or the identity of registered customers with other sites. Keep your customers' trust and their data confidential.
* Don't touch schemes that build ``cooperative databases'' that pool information on visitors using techniques such as cookie synchronization.
* Stop ad networks and advertisers from using clickstream data from your site. Specifically, banish from your site all clear GIF "web bugs" that report surfers' movements.
* Support the ability of consumers to visit and use sites anonymously. Sites should not require cookies or registration as a condition of use. Anonymous payment schemes are encouraged.
* Destroy old server logs, or aggregate the clickstream data so as to remove personally identifiable information.
For sites that mass-customize their content according to an in-house profile,
* Ask each user's permission before performing customization.
* Disclose in detail the techniques and data used.
* Provide each user with full access to all the information maintained about him or her, along with the ability to change or destroy the information if desired.
* Keep the data secure and confidential.
* Commission periodic audits to assure compliance.
``The dramatic stealth infiltration of profiling technology throughout the web is damaging public trust in the Internet,'' said Jeff Chester, Executive Director of the Center for Media Education (CME). "Online merchants who engage in unfair information practices will reduce the market size for themselves and ecommerce as a whole."
The groups calling on ecommerce sites to reject unfair profiling and protect consumers' privacy include EPIC, CME, Junkbusters, and Privacy Journal and Privacy Times.