So you know these people?
Think about it for a minute. How many of your friends (even your best
ones) have you told your true age or how much money you make. Have you
divulged your credit card data to your co-workers at work? Perhaps you
give your social security number to the kid at the McDonalds?
I didn't think so. Then
why do you insist on giving this data to a faceless computer? You don't
have any idea who is on the other side of the screen - yet every day you
give away information that you would never dream of telling your parents
or best friends.
Before typing in the
information look around the site until you find a link named "privacy".
Usually it is on the bottom of the home page (at least), and good sites
will have a link to it from EVERY page. Click on the link and read the
policy from start to finish. Make sure you understand it - if there are
any words you do not understand pull out your handy dictionary and check
them out. Once you are done, read it again. Slowly.
What's so important
about this that it requires all this work? Look, you are giving out
personal data about yourself. The web site owners have an obligation to
inform you how this data is going to be used.
Questions that should
- How do you get in
contact with the owners of the company?
- How do you erase your
private data or remove yourself from mailing lists?
- Are they going to
keep your information to themselves or sell it to third parties? If so,
can you stop this and how?
- What are they going
to do with your credit card data? How do they keep it safe?
- Why do they need the
information? For example, our site asks each person who signs up for an
award their age. Why? Because the COPPA law does not allow us to
collect information from people under 13 years old. How else are you
going to ensure you are in compliance with this kind of law except to
- It's very important
to totally understand what they plan to do with your email address ...
- Do they make use of
your TCP/IP address and other similar information, and if so what is it
used for? Virtually every site logs this data, but rarely is it used
for anything except mass statistics and error checking.
- If the site has third
party advertisers, banners, web bugs, banners and so on, what similar
information is available for how they use any information? This is most
pertinent for cookies and TCP/IP data that is automatically logged. At
the very least, their should be links to third party sites so you can
look at their privacy policies also.
- Are there any special
relationships such as partners who use the information also? If so, how
is that information shared and used? If the web site asks for
information, how do they ensure that COPPA (a law which attempts to
ensure that information is not gathered from minors without their
parents permission) is adhered to.
- Under what conditions
will you receive mailings and how do you opt- in and out of them.
Once you fully
whether or not you want to give these people your information.
I know it seems like a
lot of work, but remember you don't know who these people are and you
don't know what they will do with your information. If you read the
So now, go finish
ordering new jewelry for your wife. That's important.