The Georgetown Internet
the Federal Trade Commission on
the extent to which commercial Web
sites have posted privacy disclosures
based on fair information
practices. The study was initiated
by the private sector and was funded
by small contributions from seventeen
different companies and
Media Metrix provided the data
for the study. The sample consisted of
361 .com Web sites visited by
consumers at home drawn from a
sampling frame of the top 7500
URL's ranked by audience during
January 1999. The unduplicated
reach of the sampling frame is 98.8%.
Data were collected by 15 graduate
student "surfers" during the week of
March 8-12, 1999. The surfers
completed a survey form for the URL's
in the sampling pool until the
target of 300 Web sites had been reached.
Because the sampling frames for
the 1998 FTC study and the current
Georgetown study were drawn from
different populations, extreme care
must be exercised in making direct
comparisons between the results of
the two studies.
The study results address three
1. What personal information do
Web sites collect from consumers'
92.8% of the sites in the sample
collected at least one type of personal
identifying information (e.g.
name, e-mail address, postal address).
56.8% collected at least one type
of demographic information (e.g.
gender, preferences, Zip code).
56.2% of the sites collected both
personal identifying and demographic
information. 6.6% of the sites
collected neither type of personal
2. How many Web sites posted privacy
disclosures' 65.9% (238) of the
361 sites in the sample have posted
at least one type of privacy
or an information practice statement).
36% (131 sites) posted both types
of disclosures. 34.1% (123 sites) did
not post either type of privacy
3. Do these disclosures reflect
fair information practices' The content
of all privacy disclosures were
analyzed for four elements of fair
information (notice, choice, access
and security) and whether or not
they posted contact information
to ask questions or to complain about
privacy. Of the 236 Web sites
that collected personal information and
posted a privacy disclosure, 89.8%
included at least one survey item for
notice, 61.9% contained at least
one survey item for choice, 40.3%
contained at least one survey
item for access, 45.8% contained at least
one survey item for security,
and 48.7% contained at least one survey
item for contact information.
13.6% (n=32) of the same 236 Web sites
(or 9.5% of the 337 Web sites
that collect at least one type of personal
information) contained at least
one survey item for all five elements of
fair information practices: notice,
choice, access, security and contact