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Where are the Privacy and Security Statements?
Many consumers ignore privacy policies and for good reason - they are notorious for being filled with legal jargon which renders potentially crucial information easily misunderstood. It seems sometimes as if not even the original writers of privacy policies have read the statements or even understand them at all!

While overcoming the misconceptions about privacy policies is not easy, the information contained in privacy statements is important to consumers. A person interested in the disclosure of his or her personal data should read the privacy statements carefully. Here's how....

The first step toward making use of a privacy statement is to locate it on a company website. If it is non-existent or hidden, that may be cause for concern. Companies should treat a privacy policy with respect by placing it in a clearly marked location.

The second step is interpreting a privacy policy. Even if a particular policy seems dense, there are some key ideas that consumers should strive to understand. Remember that privacy statements were created for a reason – to assuage fears about companies requesting consumers to disclose personal information.

The crucial parts of a privacy statement can be addressed with the following three questions:

What personal data does the business collect?
How does the business make use of the data?
What personal information does the business disclose to others?

Since nearly every business on the Internet requires the collection of personal data, it is useful to know what is essential and what is not. The most important information requested is often a person’s shipping address and credit information, as these are used for sending ordered merchandise and billing the customer. Beyond the most basic data, some businesses may use personal information to track spending habits, often for the purpose of targeting their advertising efforts. Since many people find this practice disturbing, it may be wise to find out if a business participates in such practices. Finally, it may also be crucial to learn if a business is selling personal information to others. This business practice has been known to increase the amount of unsolicited email. If this is mentioned in a privacy policy and a person disagrees with this practice, it may be best to avoid dealing with the company at all.

In summary, a customer seeking to know more about how companies treat their private information would be wise to read companies’ privacy statements. Once a person understands what is said and why it is said, a person will no longer write off privacy policies as needlessly time-consuming. A person will want to know what a business does with personal information, and why it may matter. It is better to spend the time necessary to interpret the policies than wonder what happened at a later time.

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