Web-site sensitivity to privacy concerns: Collecting personally identifiable information and passing persistent cookies

Bill Helling


The World Wide Web has attracted both business and non-business sites that want to establish an online presence for reasons ranging from prestige to money-making. A common trait of many Web sites, however, is the need to monitor visitor use in order to know how the site is being used. For sites that wish for more information than can be provided by server log files, one option is to ask for visitor registration. Another option involves the use of cookies that can keep track of a user's visit and store other useful information. Registration and cookies have become prevalent on the Web at the same time that problems with these practices are being increasingly noted as a possible invasion of privacy. A study of 100 popular Web sites by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) determined a baseline figure for the appearance of privacy policies as well as for use of visitor registration and cookies. The present study examined the same sites six months later in order to establish any changes in patterns of usage. This examination suggests that the Web has become more sensitive to the privacy concerns of its users while, at the same time, increasingly resorting to the employment of privacy-threatening registration and cookies.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5210/fm.v3i2.574

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