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Survey Says Web Sites are Now Less Intrusive

The Progress & Freedom Foundation (PFF) published a new survey that shows that fewer Web sites are collecting users' personal information. The study indicates that only 84 percent of the 100 most popular Web sites are collecting personal information; in 2000, 96 percent were collecting personal information. In addition, only 48 percent of the 100 most popular Web sites are using cookies to track users' surfing habits, compared with 78 percent that used cookies in 2000.

The survey indicates that 93 percent of the 100 sites surveyed now let users choose whether to let the site share their information with third parties. Thirty-two percent of the sites let users "opt in" to information sharing, rather than offer a method to "opt out."

According to the survey, Web sites are quickly adopting the new privacy standard, Platform for Privacy Preferences Project (P3P): one in four of the top 100 sites have implemented P3P. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), says P3P is an "automated way for users to gain more control over the use of personal information on Web sites they visit. At its most basic level, P3P is a standardized set of multiple-choice questions, covering all the major aspects of a Web site's privacy policies. Taken together, they present a clear snapshot of how a site handles personal information about its users. P3P-enabled Web sites make this information available in a standard, machine-readable format. P3P enabled browsers can 'read' this snapshot automatically and compare it to the consumer's own set of privacy preferences."

PFF President Jeffrey A. Eisenach, co-author of the report, said that "The changes we have identified are evolutionary, not revolutionary, but from a consumer perspective, they are all in the right direction."

PFF based its report on information Ernst & Young collected. The results were compared to a report (Privacy Online: Fair Information Practices in the Electronic Marketplace) released on May 25, 2000, by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). PFF's new survey results are available on the PFF Web site in PDF format.

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