Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

More regulations make Web sites less trustworthy

04.08.2006
Placing strict controls and regulations on website operators does not make the Internet more secure and private for users, a new study shows. In fact, stringent policies seem to make the matter worse, says Dr. Karim Jamal, a professor in the University of Alberta School of Business.

At issue is the practice of requiring web surfers to submit personal information in order to conduct online transactions. Web proprietors can then track the users' online activities and tailor marketing strategies that target the people who come to their sites. Sometimes they'll even sell the information to third parties, who stuff unsuspecting surfers' e-mail boxes with unwanted marketing messages.

"Let's put it this way," Jamal said. "We've found that there are some reputable and highly used sites that you will come to regret ever registering for or doing business on."

Jamal's research involved an analysis of the top 100 business websites in the United States before the recently passed laws to regulate the tracking and selling of information had taken effect. Working with a colleague, Dr. Norman Bowie of the University of Minnesota, Jamal then compared the U.S. results with the results of an analysis of the top business sites in the U.K., where a large government bureaucracy regulates and monitors the actions of online operators.

Using specialized "web-crawler" software, they were able to navigate through the sites and learn whether or not the site operators were tracking their activities. Then, over a period of six months, the researchers monitored how each of the companies used information related to their online activities. Finally, the researchers checked each site for disclosure information and cross-referenced what they found--or didn't find--with the results of their software analysis.

"We found that the unregulated websites in the U.S. function just as securely and privately as the regulated sites in the U.K. Most of the web operators in the U.S. and the U.K. were open and honest and did a good job of protecting user information," Jamal said.

"However, we also found that a small percentage of operators in both countries were cheaters, and the worst of the worst of the sites operated in the U.K," added Jamal, who co-authored a paper on this topic that was recently published in the journal Business Ethics Quarterly.

The researchers also found that U.K. operators weren't as forthcoming as their U.S. counterparts in disclosing how their sites operated and what they were doing with the information they were gathering.

"You could tell the guys who were operating in the regulated market only disclosed what they were told they had to by law. Even then, what they wrote was mostly unreadable legalese," Jamal said.

"In the regulated system, the people who cheat will cheat big. They won't sell your information to a few people, they'll sell it to thousands of people," he said. "I guess they figure if they're going to cheat they might as well make it worth their while."

Jamal added that the highly regulated U.K. system, which is similar to the system used throughout Europe, costs taxpayers a lot of money, even though it isn't particularly effective.

Based on this evidence, Jamal believes the best system to protect web users is a self-regulated one, such as the one in the U.S., where operators rely on word of mouth and seals of approval from organizations such as the Better Business Bureau to promote their clean practices. Witholding or adapting regulations as techonological advances "play out" is also a good idea, he said.

An expert in accounting and auditing ethics, Jamal initiated the online privacy study because the web, being relatively new, provides good testing grounds to measure the effect of regulatory policies. Trying to accomplish the same feat in the older, convoluted world of accounting is extremely difficult, he said.

His ultimate goal is to provide insights to help policy-makers improve accounting systems so that disasters such as the Enron and WorldCom collapses become less likely.

"I think people who deal in accounting are a lot like the operators on the web. Most are honest, some are cheaters and you have to develop a system that evolves gradually to make it harder for the cheaters to operate. What you don't want is for the system to be hi-jacked to only focus on the cheaters," Jamal said.

"Our research is showing us that relying on strict regulations and harsh, punitive laws only costs more to implement, creates complexity and confusion and leads to more extreme cases of cheating," he added.

Ryan Smith | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ualberta.ca

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht New study: How does Europe become a leading player for software and IT services?
03.04.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung (ISI)

nachricht Reusable carbon nanotubes could be the water filter of the future, says RIT study
30.03.2017 | Rochester Institute of Technology

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Fighting drug resistant tuberculosis – InfectoGnostics meets MYCO-NET² partners in Peru

28.04.2017 | Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Wireless power can drive tiny electronic devices in the GI tract

28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering

Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past

28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

28.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>