Ever refuse when a cashier asks you for your home phone number or Zip code? Ever fill out a form and stop at the words "Tell us a little about yourself"? Ever hang up on a sales call? Well, even the savviest of consumers don't always realize how their privacy rights can be compromised when they shop for travel products online.
In most cases, you can learn more before you divulge too much. With reputable travel sites, pertinent information is contained in the privacy & security policy, which typically is accessible through the tiny print at the bottom of the home page or on the "About us" page. First things first: You shouldn't even think of transacting with a site that doesn't have a stated privacy policy.

However, those words "privacy & security" often get lumped together as if that ampersand is integral to their meanings. But actually they represent two different but critical issues. The first refers to the information you provide the website. The second refers to what the site does with that information. It's important to know more about both.

At Consumer Reports WebWatch, we've extensively examined not only travel sites but online privacy issues in general. We've found that in some cases, consumers are unwittingly duped by sophisticated fraud schemes. In other cases, however, online shoppers inadvertently assist in forfeiting their own privacy rights. Perhaps this is because psychologically a website may not seem as intrusive as a telemarketer or a piece of junk mail. All the more reason you should know your rights in advance.

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