September 30, 2003

Verisign and - the Very Odd Couple

I live in California, so I'm used to seeing really strange couples.

But today I saw something that stood out as far more than just an overwrought case of run-of-the-mill odd.  It stood forth as deserving to be considered a fundamental contradiction of terms.

What I saw is this: Verisign has started a website - - that proclaims itself as the "Network Solutions Privacy Web Site"!

Now that's really a bizzare combination.

On one hand the website proclaims "The personal data that you provide when you register a domain name should be just that - personal. That's why Network Solutions is leading efforts in campaigning for stronger domain name privacy rules".

On the other hand we see that very same Network Solutions gathering information on 20,000,000 internet users a day via its "Sitefinder" and shipping that information to another company,

If Verisign wants to demonstrate that it cares about privacy, it should start by removing the web-bug from its Sitefinder web page and make a guarantee to the public that Verisign is not using the privacy revealing data.

The privacy policy that Verisign cites on its SiteFinder page sweeps privacy under the rug by designating items such as what a user was viewing before he/she landed on Sitefinder as mere "statistics".  Considering that such referral information can, and often does, include names, addresses, account numbers, search engine search keys, credit card numbers, birthdates, social security numbers - or anything else that someone might chose to stuff into a URL, this referral information is a long way from innocent "statistics."

Nor does Versign's Sitefinder's privacy policy disclose that they are shipping this information, in full detail form, not in any aggregate form, off to a third party, Omniture, that may not have any obligation regarding privacy that the user can enforce.

Verisign and Privacy - the very odd couple.

Posted by karl at September 30, 2003 8:02 PM