Do you know what happens to the information you provide online?
Online Policy Primer prepared by Net 303 student, Curtin University of Technology, October 2010
What are ‘Terms of Service’ and privacy statements?
If you have ever used an online service of any kind where you have been required to ‘sign-up’ or register for an account, you most probably would have ticked a box to accept a Terms of Service statement.
Terms of Service - This statement outlines the conditions that the user must abide by when using the website service. It also contains notices about what the site does with the information you provide.
Privacy - Relates to use of your personal information.
Why should I care about this?
It is important to understand how the information you provide online is used and by whom.
Most people don’t read or understand these documents as they appear long and cumbersome, but it is your responsibility to read and understand the contents of these documents.
This presentation will outline some reasons why you should read these documents.
So who or what is TripAdvisor?
TripAdvisor is a website where visitors can obtain information and advice about hotels and restaurants from everyday people who write about their experiences.
It is not just a travel website, it has expanded to include restaurant reviews as well.
It boasts 20 million members in 23 countries ... including CHINA!
It contains over 40 million traveller reviews.
For a quick overview of TripAdvisor, check out this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6DH0J29sd4E
What can you do here?
There are a number of things to do on the TripAdvisor website.
If you don’t want to register for an account, you can browse the reviews but that is about it. You can’t interact without registering.
If you register for a TripAdvisor account, the other options available include:
The ability to write reviews
Post questions and answers to the forum
Create a travel map of places you’ve been that can be shared with friends
Record your trip information
Sounds great... So what’s the problem?
When you register to join sites such as this, where you provide personal information, there are things that you should be aware of.
While you might get enjoyment out of using these sites, they are businesses and are usually looking to get something in return.
In the case of TripAdvisor, when you find a hotel you like, it is anticipated that you will click on the site to ‘get rates’ from TripAdvisor’s partner companies such as Expedia.com
Some questions to ask yourself:
What information is collected and what are they doing with it?
Are they tracking the way I use the site?
How does TripAdvisor collect information?
TripAdvisor collects personal information from users during the registration process and when users update their profile, including:
identifying information such as name, phone number, street and email addresses, user name, password
Information about your computer is also collected when you visit the website
Cookies are created and stored on your computer to remember things about your visit to the website. It allows TripAdvisor to target your browsing and the information they provide to you.
You computer details collected includes your browser type, referring website and IP address (which is your computer identifier).
How is your information used?
By publishing information and content, including your username, on the TripAdvisor website, you give up all rights to that content, and agree that TripAdvisor and its affiliates can: “(a) use, reproduce, modify, adapt, translate, distribute, publish, create derivative works from and publicly display and perform such Submissions throughout the world in any media, now known or hereafter devised; and (b) use the name that you submit in connection with such Submission.” (TripAdvisor website, 2010)
This means your content can be used how and where they choose. This includes your username.
Other issues with TripAdvisor
While TripAdvisor appears to be quite considerate of users privacy, there are some issues that users should be aware of.
Checking how the information you publish will be used
Who is your information provided to - TripAdvisor ‘affiliates’ - who are these?
What are the restrictions on the use of content
The age restrictions for registration on the site
Information provided to and from other ‘affiliated’ websites
Links from/to other sites
TripAdvisor also allows the user to connect to their facebook account and show their friends their trip planner, where they have been and where they want to go.
It is optional for you to do this, and allowing the other site access to your information can be disabled any time you wish.
This is called a link to a third-party site.
Are you aged under 13yrs?
One of the conditions of use of the TripAdvisor website is that you are at least 13 years of age.
While it is admirable that TripAdvisor does not want to collect information from children under 13, there are no checks in place to determine the age of a registering user.
Are good intentions good enough?
Should TripAdvisor and other websites that collect private information put in place further checks to ensure users meet the age requirements?
What you can do to protect your privacy
If you are a registered user of TripAdvisor, you have the ability to ‘opt out’ of things by making changes in your member profile.
Marketing material sent by TripAdvisor
Member to member communication
What you cannot do on the site
Post content that you do not own or have the rights to
Post content that is offensive
Post illegal or criminal content
Violate any persons civil rights in any way
If any user violates the TripAdvisor agreement, then their account may be terminated.
It is up to you, the user, to make sure you periodically return to these policies and make sure they are still acceptable to you.
This is YOUR responsibility, not the responsibility of the website
Keep your information safe What do these terms mean to you?
Want to find out more?
There is a large amount of information about privacy on the website of the Australian Privacy Commissioner: http://www.privacy.gov.au /
They have their own YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/TripAdvisor
TripAdvisor (n.d.). TripAdvisor.com.au Website Terms, Conditions and Notices. Retrieved October 5, 2010, from http ://www.tripadvisor.com.au/pages/ terms.html
TripAdvisor (n.d.). TripAdvisor.com.au Website Terms, Conditions and Notices. Retrieved October 5, 2010, from http://www.tripadvisor.com.au/pages/privacy.html
Privacy2 [Image] (n.d.). Retrieved October 23, 2010, from http://www.wordle.net/show/wrdl/2619938/privacy2