The legal issues surrounding Web site privacy are still uncertain, but organizations such as the Better Business Bureau's BBBOnLine, the industry-backed Online Privacy Alliance, and the TRUSTe Privacy Program set some clear policies for dealing with private information collected online. TRUSTe is an independent, nonprofit group whose mission is to build users' trust and confidence in the Internet by promoting the principles of disclosure and informed consent.

Basically, sites adhering to the TRUSTe program agree to notify users about:

- What information they gather and track
- What they do with that information
- With whom they share that information

According to TRUSTe, this isn't just good Netizenship, it's also good business. Privacy is on the minds of many online shoppers; in fact, it is one of the top consumer issue facing the Internet. The conclusion is clear: If you want people to use your site, you must reassure them that you won't violate their privacy.

But good intentions are not enough. You also need to take technical measures to protect your customers' personal data from prying eyes. First, be sure separate the identity of users from their data in your site's database. And use encryption software to protect sensitive data such as credit card numbers and passwords when communicating with your customers.

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