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PRIVACY EXPERT ADVISES BUSINESS ON HOW TO ATTRACT AND KEEP CUSTOMERS WITH GOOD PRIVACY POLICIES

Source: Privacy And American Business

Posted on October 5, 2004

      Sixty-five percent of U.S. adult consumers online - representing over 94 million Internet users - have decided not to register at a website or shop there because they believe the privacy policy is too complicated or unclear, according to a recent survey commissioned by Privacy & American Business (P&AB) and conducted by Harris Interactive. In the latest issue of P&AB's electronic newsletter, Dr. Alan Westin, President & Publisher, discusses what companies can do to provide clear and readable policies to their customers while still including what their legal departments say needs to be there.

      "There is simply no way to have a single Online Privacy Policy presentation that meets the different concerns and approaches of the online consumer community," Dr. Westin said. "One effort will either be too long and complicated for the tell-me-quickly crowd or too thin for the tell-me-everything surfers. And, trying to get the organization's lawyers to sign off on a one-page, keep-it-simple statement is predictably doomed to failure."

      Westin Three-Tier Model

      To draft an effective privacy policy, according to Dr. Westin, a three-tier presentation works best, using the Q&A format for consumer-friendliness:

      - TIER ONE is a one-page, declarative, black-letter statement of three key Fair Information Practice elements and any special circumstances, applied to the specific website activities.

      - TIER TWO offers the exact same black-letter headings in Q&A mode, but covers all six Fair Information Practice elements. Examples and some explanations as to why this is needed or done, and what benefits there are to consumers if they accept/allow this are included. A link for Further Details is also offered.

      - TIER THREE provides the same black-letter elements but now in full regulatory-compliance-language with deeper explanations.

      "Why should businesses online care about this issue, and commit time and energy to such a multi-tiered privacy policy approach?," Dr. Westin asked. "Billions of reasons, each one with George Washington's picture on it. Or, to put it another way, they should do it to win and retain the patronage and trust of a majority of online users today."

      Methodology

      This survey was conducted online within the U.S. between June 10-16, 2004 among a nationwide cross section of 2,136 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online. The data are designed to be representative of the total adult population.

      In theory, with probability samples of this size, one could say with 95% certainty that the results have a sampling error of plus-or-minus 2 percentage points of what they would be if the entire U.S. adult population had been polled with complete accuracy. This online sample is not a probability sample.




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