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The ethics of storing personal information on your network

Several industry watchdog groups have hit the net to test site privacy to insure companies are doing right by their customers. Some with poor maintenance of customer information have received negative press as a result. Here are some tips to prevent your company from receiving negative feedback.

Verify every claim your company makes about its privacy statements. Where you see discrepancies, point them out. Most of the time, they're oversights and can be fixed. For instance, look at how and dealt with security problems: they updated their sites and issued a statement to inform their clients of their discovery and their repair. So although the problem should not have happened in the first place, those companies did the right thing when the problems did occur.

Companies that don't fix their problems risk earning the reputation of not taking their customers' privacy seriously. This results in people abandoning their sites, going to competitors.

Unless specified otherwise, those who gather information basically own the information. However, while this may keep most companies out of court, the distribution of personal information over the internet is a hot topic that is certainly going to rouse hearty debate from several parties; generally, the opinions on this topic side with users having rights to privacy, and if a company compromised their privacy then that company's reputation is going to be damaged.

Barrie Sosinsky ( is president of consulting company Sosinsky and Associates (Medfield MA). He has written extensively on a variety of computer topics. His company specializes in custom software (database and Web related), training and technical documentation.

This was last published in November 2000

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