"Since 1995, the Federal Trade Commission has encouraged online firms to offer privacy protections to consumers to encourage broad participation in electronic commerce. Last year, the FTC reported to Congress that its survey of all commercial web sites had found that only 14 percent posted any kind of information practice statement. Georgetown Business Professor Mary Culnan's survey, conducted in March of this year, found that 65.7 percent of web sites constituting 98.8 percent of consumer web traffic posted information practice statements. Professor Culnan's draft survey also found that 12 percent of the sites in her sample that collect personal information address all basic fair information practices (notice, choice, access and security) - questions not posed in the FTC's prior study.
"In addition, last year, the FTC surveyed the top 100 web sites and found 71 percent had an information practice statement. A separate survey, conducted by Professor Culnan for the Online Privacy Alliance, found that 94 percent of the top 100 sites posted information practice statements. Twenty-one percent of the sites in this study that collect personal information address all basic fair information practices.
"Online firms deserve considerable credit for making progress over the last year. There is a remarkable increase in the number of web sites posting information about their privacy practices. The Better Business Bureau, the Online Privacy Alliance, the Direct Marketing Association, and TRUSTe, among others, should be given special recognition for their efforts. Professor Culnan deserves our gratitude for her contributions.
"In the near future, the Commission will send a report to Congress that will look beyond these raw numbers and offer a qualitative analysis of whether these privacy notices provide the information that consumers need to address their concerns about the use of their personal information and whether there are adequate enforcement mechanisms to insure that Web sites honor their privacy commitments.
"In the meantime, I encourage the business community to continue making progress so that all consumers feel confident that their privacy is protected on the Internet."