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  • Author(s): Gomez, Joshua
  • Pinnick, Travis
  • Soltani, Ashkan
  • et al.

Online privacy and behavioral profiling are of growing concern among both consumers and government officials. In this report, we examine both the data handling practices of popular websites and the concerns of consumers in an effort to identify problematic practices. We analyze the policies of the 50 most visited websites to better understand disclosures about the types of data collected about users, how that information is used, and with whom it is shared. We also look at specific practices such as sharing information with affiliates and third-party tracking. To understand user concerns and knowledge of data collection we look at surveys and polls conducted by previous privacy researchers. We look at records of complaints and inquiries filed with privacy watchdog organizations such as the Federal Trade Commission, the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, The California Office of Privacy Protection, and TRUSTe. Finally, to gain some insight into what aspects of data collection users are being made aware of, we look at news articles from three major newspapers for topics related to Internet privacy. Based on our findings we make recommendations for website operators, government regulators, as well as technology developers.

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