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e-Privacy Research: a New Disciplinary Borderland.
Unformatted Document Text:  * 5 in the sample. Among all the chosen websites some had to be discarded as their website was not accessible any more at the moment of the analysis. Finally, 250 websites of firms, that fulfilled our criteria were chosen to take part. We preferred this method of selection above a random access by search engines or above a selection through online indexes or webguides, because these lists of websites can be influenced by advertising contracts and affiliation marketing practices. Considering there is no way to know the total number of websites of the businesses established in Belgium (having a .be and/or .com and/or .net or other domainname), we certainly can not pretend to aim at a representativity. Although, the used method guarantees a representative distribution of the tested items over the different economical business-to-consumer sectors. This sample was used for the first analysis in march 2001, before the new Belgian Privacy Law (based on the E.U. Directive) came into effect on September 1 st . A second analysis of the same sample was done a year later in april to evaluate possible changes in the dataprocessing and implimentation of the Privacy Law. We plan to use our research instrument to conduct a longitudinal and comparative research in the European Union and abroad. First, we want to measure the possible changes in the online privacy policies, by repeating the same analysis of the same sample of websites after the new privacy law came into effect (but also again in the future), (i.e. the longitudinal aspect of the research). Secondly, we plan to use our on line questionnaire to measure different aspects of the privacy statements in corporate and commercial websites of other countries (i.e. the comparative aspect of the research) and to focus the analysis on specific sectors or target groups. Finally, we want to stress that Belgium will normaly in 2002 adopt the opting-in regime for e-mailmarketing and SMS-advertising. In our research we already measure the number and characteristics of the opting-out or the opting-in procedures that figure in electronic forms. After this new Belgian law will come into effect, a specific evaluation of the implementation of the opting-in rule will be conducted. 3. Results: scanning the websites 3.1. How are data collected? Concerning the explicit collection of data we have observed that 90,5% (93% in 2001) of the visited websites ask in one way or another personal data of their visitors: by means of an electronic form or a subscription to an e-zine, an orderform, a guestbook or a form to ask more information about products and services. Also the possibility to e-mail to the webmaster or to the customer service is considered to be a processing of personal data, as the company obtains the e-mail address (and eventually co-ordinates and other information put in the message by the author him- or herself) 1 . An item, that has been examined during this analysis, was if on the electronic form a difference has been made between necessary information and secondary data. It was notable that some websites collect data that are strictly irrelevant for the explicitly mentioned goal of the processing. An example: to obtain a free subscription of an e-zine, only the e-mail address is necessary. But we noticed that several organisations link that subscription to a (sometimes compulsory) filling in of other personal data. These secondary data can be an interesting source of information about the website visitors and can also be used to maintain segmented contacts with interested consumers. Those additional goals must be explicitly mentioned. The consumer must have the choice to communicate or not

Authors: Walrave, Michel.
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in the sample. Among all the chosen websites some had to be discarded as their
website was not accessible any more at the moment of the analysis. Finally, 250
websites of firms, that fulfilled our criteria were chosen to take part. We
preferred this method of selection above a random access by search engines or
above a selection through online indexes or webguides, because these lists of
websites can be influenced by advertising contracts and affiliation marketing
practices. Considering there is no way to know the total number of websites of
the businesses established in Belgium (having a .be and/or .com and/or .net or
other domainname), we certainly can not pretend to aim at a representativity.
Although, the used method guarantees a representative distribution of the tested
items over the different economical business-to-consumer sectors.
This sample was used for the first analysis in march 2001, before the new
Belgian Privacy Law (based on the E.U. Directive) came into effect on September
1
st
. A second analysis of the same sample was done a year later in april to
evaluate possible changes in the dataprocessing and implimentation of the
Privacy Law. We plan to use our research instrument to conduct a longitudinal
and comparative research in the European Union and abroad. First, we want to
measure the possible changes in the online privacy policies, by repeating the
same analysis of the same sample of websites after the new privacy law came
into effect (but also again in the future), (i.e. the longitudinal aspect of the
research). Secondly, we plan to use our on line questionnaire to measure
different aspects of the privacy statements in corporate and commercial websites
of other countries (i.e. the comparative aspect of the research) and to focus the
analysis on specific sectors or target groups. Finally, we want to stress that
Belgium will normaly in 2002 adopt the opting-in regime for e-mailmarketing and
SMS-advertising. In our research we already measure the number and
characteristics of the opting-out or the opting-in procedures that figure in
electronic forms. After this new Belgian law will come into effect, a specific
evaluation of the implementation of the opting-in rule will be conducted.
3. Results: scanning the websites

3.1. How are data collected?

Concerning the explicit collection of data we have observed that 90,5% (93% in
2001) of the visited websites ask in one way or another personal data of their
visitors: by means of an electronic form or a subscription to an e-zine, an
orderform, a guestbook or a form to ask more information about products and
services. Also the possibility to e-mail to the webmaster or to the customer
service is considered to be a processing of personal data, as the company
obtains the e-mail address (and eventually co-ordinates and other information
put in the message by the author him- or herself)
1
.
An item, that has been examined during this analysis, was if on the electronic
form a difference has been made between necessary information and secondary
data. It was notable that some websites collect data that are strictly irrelevant
for the explicitly mentioned goal of the processing. An example: to obtain a free
subscription of an e-zine, only the e-mail address is necessary. But we noticed
that several organisations link that subscription to a (sometimes compulsory)
filling in of other personal data. These secondary data can be an interesting
source of information about the website visitors and can also be used to maintain
segmented contacts with interested consumers. Those additional goals must be
explicitly mentioned. The consumer must have the choice to communicate or not


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