Online Privacy and Business by Carla Mooney

By Carla Mooney

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Smelt says that only 30 percent of the ninety sites he surveyed guaranteed that they would not sell user information. “The sense of unease consumers have about privacy online is in a sense justified,” Smelt says. “At the end of a day a privacy policy is really about a guarantee . . ”22 Has Tracking Gone Too Far? Databases of users’ personal information and web habits have become a treasure trove for companies and advertisers. “The largest, mostprofitable unregulated industry in America is data and data mining,”23 says John A.

When users can look behind the curtain and see the information gathered on them, many also discover another surprising fact: that some of that data is wrong. com found that every person noticed at least one major error in their profile. Several found multiple errors. The errors included details such as household income, level of education, ethnicity, and whether or not the person was a parent. According to Acxiom, profile errors are common. Up to 30 percent of an individual’s information can be wrong at any given time.

To some, the notion of offering the same product at a different price for different customers based on their buying habits or personal profiles is a form of discrimination. According to the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, 76 percent of American adults said it would bother them to find out that other people paid a lower price for the same product online. “As you profile more and more people, you’ll start to segregate people into ‘the people you can get money out of ’ and ‘the people you can’t get money out of,’” says Auerbach.

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