This paper represents an update on the progress of an ongoing research project to investigate the characteristics of online privacy policies, and the ways that a sample of policies have changed over three biennial surveys undertaken in 2000, 2002 and 2004.
The surveys use a non-judgemental sampling approach that is in keeping with the primarily interpretive thrust of the research. Taken together, the three surveys completed so far provide a unique opportunity to investigate how organisations have shaped their online privacy policies in response to changing perceptions of the importance and role of trust in the decision-making processes of a variety of buyers and browsers. While the direction of the research has been, to a large extent, determined by the findings as they have emerged from the analysis, the results so far indicate an incomparably rich source of data that illuminates the dynamic nature of trust online.
A further sample was collected late in 2004, and the preliminary results of the analysis of this latest survey will be available in time to report at conference. These are expected to reveal a further step in the evolution of online privacy policies, although at this stage it is not possible to forecast with any confidence what changes may be involved.