Beware: The FTC Is Monitoring Your Online Privacy Notices & Policies
The FTC first took action against GeoCities for allegedly engaging in deceptive practices involving the collection and dissemination of personal information of GeoCities' website visitors. The FTC charged GeoCities with using personal information for purposes other than that which the company stated it would be used for, falsely informing website visitors that personal information would only be given to third parties upon the visitor's permission, and misrepresenting that the company retained the personal information when, in fact, a third party collected and maintained the data.
The second action brought by the FTC was against Liberty Financial Companies, Inc. The FTC charged Liberty Financial with three separate acts of misrepresentation: The FTC's complaint alleged false statements by Liberty Financial that questionnaire responses would be anonymous, that visitors who supplied personal information would receive newsletters, and that they possibly would win prizes.
- what information is being collected
- whether personal information will be shared with third parties
- how the collected information will be used
- how the website visitor can obtain access to their private information
- how the website visitor can change or delete their private information
- the identity of the party collecting the information, or the sponsorship of any activity on its website
- detail special parental consent programs if the company knows that the site may attract a child audience
- hyperlinks containing the message
"NOTICE: We collect personal information on this site. To learn more about how we use your information, click here."on the website's home page, as well as any page that collects information
- a hyperlink with its privacy notice directing visitors to the FTC's website to learn more about consumer privacy on the Web
There are websites, such as BBBOnline and TrustE, that offer membership seal programs, monitor privacy practices, and assist companies new to e-commerce in developing privacy notices and policies. These sites are useful educational and planning tools for companies looking to put their business on to a website. These sites will also give approval seals to those companies whose website privacy notice and policies meet certain standards. In addition, the approval seal provides the company with a certain degree of credibility since it demonstrates to website visitors the company's commitment to and concern for protection of private information.