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Top ISPs among least-compliant privacy policies: Centre for Internet Safety

Major Australian websites are actively tracking customers with long-term use of an average of 10 tracking cookies per site, research conducted by the Centre for Internet Safety (CIS) has found in an audit that also ranked sites by the compliance of their privacy policies with soon-to-be-tougher Australian privacy laws.

Created to assess online privacy protections in the leadup to the introduction of new and stricter privacy legislation in March 2014, the Australian-first 2013 Australian Online Privacy Index (AOPI) used Alexa Web site rankings to build a list of the country's 76 most popular Web sites. Each was audited against the requirements of the 13 Australian Privacy Principles (APPs) that will be introduced in the significant overhaul of Australian privacy legislation.

The worst privacy policy reviewed by CIS was that of US-based photo sharing site www.imgur.com, but the second and third-worst policies were those of major Internet service providers iiNet and TPG, respectively.

“While brevity is good with privacy policies because it may mean less verbiage and legalese, 313 words in iiNet's case and 269 in TPG's case didn't allow them to convey anything meaningful whatsoever to their customers,” the review concluded, noting that the Victorian government's www.vic.gov.au had the best privacy policy of those reviewed.

To rank highly, the CIS determined that a site's privacy policy should be understandable by a 14 year old.

Banks dominated the report's top eight, with Westpac, Suncorp, St George, and Commonwealth Bank of Australia ranking 2, 5, 6, and 8 respectively. Also among the best sites were Australia post (#3), JB Hi-Fi (#4), and eBay (#7).

Policies were each reviewed and scored on a number of categories, including the number and duration of tracking cookies used by a site and its written privacy policy. The CIS was “unpleasantly surprised” by some of the results, its report said.

Imgur was by far the worst offender in terms of cookie usage, with 93 cookies installed on visitors' computers. The UK's Daily Mail was second, with 53 cookies, followed by Harvey Norman (44), CNET (43), The Guardian (40), Officeworks (39), News.com.au (32), RealEstate.com.au (30), NineMSN (24), and eBay (24).

Cookies were also ranked based on their duration, with Web site Alibaba.com dropping a cookie set to last 8850 days (over 24 years). The ANZ bank's cookies lasted 3090 days, Amazon.com's 2017 days, IMDB.com 1806 days, and Telstra 1759 days with WeatherZone (1058), Kogan.com (1057), Jetstar (746), Harvey Norman (706) and Flickr (656) rounding off the top ten.

The review also noted a range of anecdotal observations, with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) privacy policy suggesting it had not been updated since 2004. Virgin Australia was singled out for its clear proposed plan of action in the event of a data breach, while a number of third-party Google Analytics users were commended for highlighting the level of personal information to which the service would give them access.

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Tags Centre for Internet Safety

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