A Longitudinal Analysis of the Privacy Policies of the Fortune E-50 Firms
Etheridge, Harlan L., Hsu, Kathy H. Y., Journal of Strategic E-Commerce
We examine the online privacy policies of the Fortune e50 firms to determine the extent to which online firms are committed to protect online consumer privacy. In addition, to determine the extent that the "dot.com bust", increasing consumer awareness of online privacy issues, and government regulations related to consumer privacy have impacted the privacy policies of U.S. firms engaged in ebusiness, we re-examine the privacy policies of the Fortune e50 firms two and one-half years after our initial investigation.
Our results suggest that most e50 firms provide basic information about online consumer privacy and that the disclosure of such information seems to be increasing. However, certain important aspects of online consumer privacy are lacking in the privacy policies of the e50 firms, particularly those related to the ability of online consumers to control how their data is used, how data collected via email is used, and how the online privacy of children is ensured. Given the sensitive nature of much of this information and the rise in computer crimes, unless online firms increase the ability of consumers of direct how their personal information can be used, the Federal Government may introduce more legislation to further protect online consumer privacy by forcing online firms to offer consumers this option.
A question that must be asked, however, is "Are online companies listening to the issues surrounding online consumer privacy and implementing and enforcing appropriate privacy policies?" One way to determine if online companies view online consumer privacy as an important issue is to examine their online privacy policies. A privacy notice is a written statement advising the public of the collection and use of personally identifiable information and security practices of a firm. A good privacy notice is easy to find, easy to read, and comprehensively explains all of the firm's online information practices. This notice provides online visitors an opportunity to make informed decisions about the collection and use of their information. In this study, we examine the online privacy policies of the Fortune e-50 firms, fifty firms that are representative of the Internet economy, to determine the extent to which online firms are committed to protect online consumer privacy.
Due to the significance of the on-line components of these companies, online privacy issues should be very important to the Fortune e-50 firms. …