The issue of trust has been deemed critical in most aspects of commercial exchange. The realm of electronic business is no exception to this rule. The prominence of this issue has been highlighted by recent events in which the security of personal data has been compromised by large corporations and state entities. When shopping on-line, the consumer is aware that their personal data may be used in an unauthorized manner, lost or sold to third parties. The role of privacy and the security of personal data figures prominently in literature discussing the importance of trust in commercial web interactions.
Industry best-practice and regulatory requirements have encouraged or mandated the use of ‘privacy statements’. However, it is unclear whether the inclusion of different types of privacy statements has had a real impact on consumer behaviour. For example, although statements potentially provide increased transparency to the consumer, the immediacy of the web medium may at best preclude the likelihood that the statements are reviewed prior to on-line registration.
Much literature has stated that trust in a website is likely to be based on the strength of its brand, previous consumer experience with the company and the look and feel of the website. In this context, research examines the extent to which consumers are aware of the role of privacy statements and whether these statements strengthen or weaken trust in a web site.