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The Trust category contains the Principles, Transparency and Privacy sub-indexes. In the Principles index, we measure how respectfully companies treat personal data supplied online. The Transparency index is a measure of how well companies explain their datahandling practices, while the Privacy index provides a single view of the other two indexes, serving as a useful snapshot of a company's Trust rating.

Trust is a vital component in attracting and retaining customers. If users are not reassured about receiving unsolicited emails, or about not having their details appear in commercial marketing databases, they may well not interact with a company online.

A transparent privacy policy, which clearly states how personal data is being treated, is a key component of Customer Respect. A policy should be concise and easy to read. Sometimes policies are written in a cumbersome style and use too many legal terms that can confuse the reader. Privacy policies written in plain English are best received by customers. Also, they should be comprehensive and should cover all areas relevant to the use of personal data.

Industry average: 5.7
Top scoring site: InterContinental Hotels Group with 9.1

Using personal data for email marketing without permission
When site visitors submit their personal information online, they are entitled to expect that the company receiving it treats it with respect. One key area that can provide an insight into disrespectful practices is how companies choose to market their products and services. Those who value the integrity of their users' data ask the owners' permission before sending marketing emails.

21 percent of companies respectfully do not use personal data for marketing purposes without permission. However, 72 percent state that they would send marketing material without the user requesting it, while 7 percent do not clearly state their policy in this area.

How users can opt out of receiving email marketing
Companies that choose to use personal data for marketing purposes should make it easy for users to opt out of these programs. The easiest way for users is to fill out a special form online specifying their marketing preferences, or to send an email. 64 percent of Airlines & Travel companies allow online opt-out. 5 percent offer offline opt-out only, while 10 percent do not outline any opt-out mechanism. Although too many companies do not ask permission before using data for marketing, it is positive that almost two in three offer online opt-out. Also, the proportion that does not offer opt-out choices is less than half the 2005 global figure of 23 percent.

Security of forms
All forms, not only booking forms, through which users can submit data should be secure. All personal information is valuable and should be protected. Only 40 percent of sites always provide SSL on forms while 7 percent never do. Most of the remaining 53 percent
provide secure registration or booking forms but do not secure general contact forms.

Editing and deletion of personal data

When users submit personal data online, they are entitled to update it and be able to delete it themselves (or request that it be deleted) once it is no longer needed for valid business reasons. The privacy policy should contain details of how to accomplish these tasks. In only 52 percent of the policies in this industry are there details on how users can update their personal data online, although this does exceed the global 2005 figure of 29

Also, only 29 percent of policies mention how users can delete their own personal data (or how it is deleted once no longer needed).

Users are entitled to be informed of why they should accept cookies. It is not good enough to tell them that the site will work best with cookies enabled, or to not explain the technology at all. The more open and honest a company is about its cookie use, the more likely its users will allow cookies to be stored on their computers. 12 percent of our user survey respondents did not understand cookies, while 48 percent either have them disabled or do not trust them.

17 percent of sites contain a complete, user-focused explanation of cookies. 28 percent provide a good explanation while 17 percent use cookies but provide little or no relevant information to their users.

Industry average: 6.3
Top scoring site: Expedia with 8.5

Structure of the privacy policy
Web site visitors who take the time to read a privacy policy are likely to be in a hurry.
Reading a privacy policy is not the reason they will have come to the site, and they should be facilitated in their goal to quickly access information by being presented with a wellstructured privacy policy.

Many Airlines & Travel companies need to improve the structure of their policies. Only 38 percent provide a table of contents at the top with links to each main section. Most –56 percent –simply present the policy with headed sections.

Clarity of the privacy policy
The language used in privacy policies should be simple and concise. 86 percent of the Airlines & Travel companies provide clearly-written policies but 14 percent use language that needs to be simplified to ensure that all readers can learn how their personal data is treated.

Explicitness of explanation of opt-out choices
If data is used for marketing or is shared with other companies, then privacy policies
should contain clear instructions on how users can opt out of these practices. We found that Airlines & Travel industries explain opt-out of marketing choices much better than those for opt-out of data sharing. Only 67 percent of sites are clear on the choices for opting out of data sharing, while 81 percent are clear on the choices for opting out of marketing programs. Companies need to make more of an effort to reassure those who are worried about data-sharing practices.

Opt-in/out checkboxes on contact forms
A company who gives users choices at the usual first point of contact –the email form –is
clearly being up-front about its data use. While an opt-in checkbox is more respectful, even an opt-out box is a sign that the company wants the user to choose to receive email marketing material. Only 5 percent of sites in this industry provide email forms that contain an opt-out checkbox, and no form contains an opt-in checkbox.

Information on site security
Data security is a major concern for Web users. 78 percent of our survey respondents had fears that personal data might be accessible to hackers or other unauthorized users due to inadequate security measures. Web users need to be reassured that their sensitive personal information is safe in the hands of the companies they send it to. Privacy policies should contain information on the technical precautions that are taken to keep this data secure.
Surprisingly, given the level of concern about security, 19 percent of sites do not mention security in their privacy policies.

Industry average: 6.0
Top scoring site: Southwest Airlines with 8.2

Sharing personal data for marketing purposes without permission
When a company shares personal data with other entities it risks losing the trust of its clients and site visitors. Misuse of personal data is a growing concern for Internet users and to sell or give this data to other companies is disrespectful. Respondents to our 2006 survey told us that ‘spam’ email is affecting trust: 37 percent avoid providing email addresses as much as possible while 47 percent will not provide email addresses to companies whom they think might share them.

Our findings show that the Airlines & Travel companies are slightly better than the global average for not sharing personal data with other companies for marketing: 47 percent of this industry share data compared with 55 percent of all companies in 2005. 21 percent share with business partners, 17 percent with third parties and 9 percent within their business groups. 5 percent need to be clearer about their policy in this area.

How users can opt out of data sharing
It is disrespectful to share personal data for marketing purposes with other companies, but
it is even worse not to offer opt-out. 21 percent of Airlines & Travel companies fail to tell their site users how to opt out of data sharing, a worrying statistic for users of these sites. 29 percent offer online opt-out, and 2 percent allow offline opt-out.

Irrelevant and excessive mandatory fields in contact forms
Site visitors who want to get in touch online should not be required to provide information that does not appear to be relevant to a general inquiry. To force them to provide information such as full address or phone number does not benefit users and gives the impression that this data is being gathered for a purpose not related to answering the question.

31 percent of sites ask for personal information on email forms that is not related to a general inquiry. However it is positive that 64 percent of sites provide email forms that contain five or fewer mandatory fields.

P3P policies
The presence on a Web site of a P3P policy –a machine-readable version of a privacy policy –can save visitors having to read the full privacy policy. A P3P-compliant browser can compare the site policies to the user's preferences and alert them to any areas of difference. It is both a time saver and another demonstration of the importance the company places on privacy. Disappointingly, we found that only 7 percent of sites provided P3P policies, compared with 12 percent of all sites reviewed in 2005.

Tone of privacy policies
While the content of the privacy policy is of most importance, the tone in which it is expressed is also critical. The user reads the policy for reassurance and should not be put off by formal or patronizing language. This industry generally performs well in this area. 55 percent of policies were rated as friendly, while 38 percent would achieve this rating with just a few edits.

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