BrainPlay.com takes privacy seriously. An online retailer of educational toys and software based in Denver, the company has had a privacy statement on its Web site since its launch two years ago. While the company says protecting the privacy of Internet customers is a courtesy, privacy has become the subject of a heated legal debate among consumer protection groups, business associations, government agencies and the Clinton administration. Because the Internet gives companies the capability to gather enormous amounts of information about their customers, the worldwide computer network is both a marketer's dream and a privacy advocate's nightmare.
For BrainPlay.com, the issue is simple: Protecting privacy improves its company image and instills trust in its customers. "More people are paying attention to privacy issues," says Srikant Srinivasan, BrainPlay.com's founder and CEO. "Consumers today want to know -- and have the right to know -- about the companies they're dealing with and how their personal information is being used. The good companies are letting them know."
BrainPlay.com's privacy statement is comprehensive. It says the company doesn't sell names, e-mail addresses or other personal information about its customers to third parties. Customers who sign up for BrainPlay.com's monthly e-mail newsletter, which includes information about special offers, can remove their names from the mailing list at any time. The privacy statement also notes that while the company collects information about how visitors use the site, personal information is used only to update customers on a product's shipping status or to verify shipment receipts.
"Customers want to [know] we aren't doing anything with the information they're giving us," says Doug Smooke, BrainPlay.com's marketing services manager. "We've always tried to be as upfront as possible with our customers about our policies."
Melissa Campanelli is a technology writer in Brooklyn, New York, who has covered technology for Mobile Computing & Communications and Sales & Marketing Management magazines. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org