Tuesday, October 21, 2008

VSD Concept & on-line Privacy Issues

An Investigation Essay
Valerie Chaisson

In this investigation I would like to discuss the following; the socio-technical problem space of online purchases, the implications it creates, the Stakeholders and indirect stakeholders.

Problem Space
The problem space that I would like to introduce is in the area of on-line purchases as it relates to privacy issues. When we make purchases, our personal information goes on-line to a system that may or may not be protected. Our commitment to shopping and consuming can blind the decisions or clarity of mind when it comes to keeping our personal financial information safe.
I am the web master of a small on-line site that sells supplements, personal electrical gauges and meters. This experience has shown me that consumers will purchase items with-out hesitation, if they believe they need it. The website indicates that they are secure by a logo offering security of the commercial server in which it is hosted on. While I collect their personal information, are they thinking about where it is going? They have an encryption security, but they do not know what the end person is doing with their ‘stuff’.

While I have made many online purchases with work, I enter only my work information. This does not review any of my own personal information such as my likes and dislikes, my personal accounts, home address, drivers license number, and of course, my mothers maiden name.

A question that comes to mind that I find interesting is that to what level of privacy do we really need to make a purchase? Do we need a privacy warning? If we only sought out websites that offered an absolute guarantee that our information is secure beyond all doubt, would we only purchase from them?

In a study done to test participants1 actions when presented with a prominent privacy information condition shown, they found that people were willing to pay more per item to have more security offered to them with their information.

Contrary though, people selected and bought from less expensive vendors online when no privacy information was indicated at all. They experimented with subjects buying a personal adult item and a less personal item such as batteries and found overall, people would pay more for personal items and batteries on a site that had the prominent privacy information stated upfront.

Do we really read all the warnings that pass in front of our eyes when we come to a website that may not offer any SSL? How many websites would do we go on and look for the lock and a message that the site is secure in the right hand corner?

The Human being is the stakeholder here. The main objective of the stakeholder here is that they are the ultimate consumer. Without people, the drive for success and improvement and all that is would be done without merit. We drive each other and push the need for improvement and opportunity to the 10th degree. The need to hunt and gather is learned from one generation to the next. We make and create website and POS to show our creativity and wares, offer things you may or may not need.

That said, we have gone to the web dancing joyfully at times. We have made purchases, chatted online, shared information about ourselves. Maybe it was with reckless abandonment we started, but today, we show more caution. We must (or should) have a fundamental trust in a website if we enter our personal information. That trust is then fundamental for the website to succeed.

When the consumer comes in contact with the page that seeks information from them, they can at that point, find another source or perhaps call in an order. When we call in the order, we essentially give the exact information to the service contact, but may not have as much hesitation at that point. Is this due to our contact with another human vs. a website? I personally have more confidence speaking to another person than I do with a website, it may be the personal contact for me. The design of the website must answer my questions and let me do a number of things that I am used to being able to do. I do not want to save my personal credit card number on a website, but don’t mind a customer service person hold that in their database. Perhaps it is the thought that it is not ‘on the net’ but at their shop?

Indirect stakeholders
Our indirect stakeholders would be the people who make the products we purchase online. We have steel makers, people who make beads, vitamins and all items we see online and in physical stores. Our industry comes from all countries and can be sold in any language.

1 The 6th Workshop on the Economics of Information Security (WEIS) The Effect of Online Privacy Information on Purchasing Behavior: An Experimental Study. Janice Tsai, Serge Egelman, Lorrie Cranor, Allessandro Acquisti. Carnegie Mellon University. June 2007

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