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CONSUMER PROTECTION

Source: ECommerce-Guide.com

Posted on July 2, 2002

      Some Internet users mistakenly use "security" and "privacy" interchangeably. Equally important, the two are not the same but there are points of overlap. As an e-commerce site owner, it is your responsibility to ensure that customers are able to shop with confidence and safety in a secured, private environment.

      E-commerce security is expected and should be an absolute requirement for every transaction. Security measures prevent credit card and bank account numbers from being intercepted or purloined by a hacker. Make sure that securely connected Web sites display an "https:" prefix and confidential information should be encrypted or deleted after usage. E-tailers have realized that security is most critical to e-biz success and most sites will go to extremes to protect consumers.

      Some people who avoid online shopping claim that one of the chief deterrents is a concern for privacy. They are worried about how their personal information is being used. Is data being collected and sold? Will they have to worry about people knowing too much about their lives, buying habits, income, family, etc.? Can information be used to steal their identity?

      What those concerned about privacy may not know is that the Internet already holds an abundance of accessible information -- all available without ever making an online purchase. For example, a search on someone's name or e-mail address will yield interesting tidbits: published papers, finishing time in a local marathon, posts to newsgroups, personal interests, photos from a family reunion. And by using a variety of Web sites you can glean a name and address from just a phone number; find out the price of a piece of residential property; ascertain an approximate annual salary from a job title; and locate a work address, phone number and fax number.

      The online accessibility of public information should not make you remiss about your site's own privacy efforts. If you want to be perceived as trustworthy to your visitors, don't sell information and collect only the data that is needed by using it for its intended purposes. Be respectful of the personal data that Internet users have entrusted to you. Also, make employees aware of your strict privacy policies and the consequences for non-adherence.

      Displaying your security measures and privacy policies can assuage the fears that potential customers may have about online transactions. A few words of reassurance can be the motivating factor in converting the wary into online shoppers. Conversely, a site that gets a reputation for not properly handling customer information can wind up failing.




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