The Project

Approach: A comparison of users' expectations of privacy online and the data collection practices of website operators.

Goal: To identify specific practices that may be harmful or deceptive and attract the attention of government regulators.

Result: Recommendations for policymakers to protect consumers and for website operators to avoid stricter regulation.

Key Findings

User Expectations and Knowledge

  • Users are concerned about data collection online and want greater control over their personal information.
  • Users lack awareness of some data collection practices.
  • Users don't know who to complain to.

Website Practices

  • Websites collect and analyze data about users, but only offer partial access and control to the users.
  • Website policies are unclear about several important issues, such as retention and data enhancement.
  • Websites claim they do not share user data with third parties, but they do share with affiliates that users may have no relationship with.
  • Web bug trackers are ubiquitous. Analytics and ad serving companies can track user behavior across large portions of the web.