Privacy Policy - Yea, Right!

I am sure by now most everyone has signed up for various information on the Internet. Some of you may have even read the online privacy policies for your favorite online publications. What I am going to tell you, some may find hard to believe, but a number of policies are anything but private.

Here is a quote from a website privacy policy, "In some instances, we operate shared web sites with businesses affiliated with us. Our privacy policy will apply to these web sites, and our affiliates"

This particular site stated in the sentence before that they would not share the information submitted on their site to any outside parties. The actual quote, "We do not share personal identifying information with any third party without your permission." If you stop reading there or go on, the entire paragraph makes logic sense, until... You do some research.

I was curious about how many shared web sites this particular business had so I did a search for the company itself, but that was not telling me anything. So I said to myself, everything is possible. I thought, if these guys have shared websites, then they probably use the same language in their privacy policies. So, I did the following search. Click here

In the results page I found one company listed on (2/16/05 at 16:00 hrs. Pacific Time) that had the exact quote. The result stated, "1 of about 346 for..." At this point I wanted to check quickly if the page displayed was in fact the same page that I had read earlier. I clicked on the cache area and went down in the page to where the highlighted area was. Sure enough it was in fact the same. I verified this with other words with in the same general area. For example: The following three words were the same and in all uppercase, "PLEASE BE AWARE."

OK. So now I knew it was the same, but what about the 345 others? Following the instructions on the search results page, "... repeat the search with the omitted results included," I clicked there and saw a whole slew of other companies listed in the results.

Now I started comparing the language using the cache as before but with the other sites displayed. Once again, my findings were the exact same words in a number of the samples that I checked.

So, all of these sites use those same words. What does that tell us? It tells us one of two things. Either all 346 websites are the same company, or there is a lot of plagiarism going on. I don't think it is plagiarism.

With that in mind, their privacy policy includes sharing the information with all 346 websites plus, the un-named number of affiliates. Can you trust the other sites not to share the information with themselves? They say they will not share with any "third party without your permission," but what about their other business sites that they jointly operate?

This policy is vague...

What do you think?

Tell It like it is...

See: confidentiality issues of a B2B and B2C site.

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