Technology makes day-to-day tasks easier. The increased penetration of the Internet into homes world-wide* has encouraged many corporations to offer their services online. Every day end users browse and purchase merchandise, communicate with individuals thousands of miles away, and comb through tomes of information all from the comfort of their desk chair. Yet as individuals are quick to hop online and use these and other services, are they aware of the information that they choose to share? Is privacy online a real concern for end users dealing with the numerous corporations that offer online services? What rights should end users expect when they choose to share private information online? Based our background research and preliminary conversations with other Internet users, we believe that online privacy is something about which many individuals are aware. At the same time, however, we note that individuals react quite differently to privacy concerns, and often simply ignore privacy issues. Based on these preliminary observations we have opted to conduct a more extensive survey of Internet users and their feelings about online privacy. We discuss the drawbacks of not allowing privacy concerns to influence Internet usage, and hypothesize how this discontinuity might change. Additionally, we examine the mechanisms through which corporations work to provide users the safety of information required. We consider numerous corporate policies and attempt to ascertain what must be standardized by governmental regulations in order to secure the privacy rights granted by United States legislation, and if those government-enforced privacy rights are sufficient to protect online privacy from commercial abuse.
A PDF version of our presentation slides can be found here.
* Current estimates show 13.9% global penetration in 2004-2005. This is a 146.2% increase from previous figures. (Internet World Stats. http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm)