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Establishing business integrity in an online environment: An examination of New Zealand web site privacy notices

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Purpose ‐ The purpose of this paper is to examine the extent to which New Zealand business web sites conform to the provisions of the New Zealand Privacy Act, 1993 as an articulation of the national values on the rights of individuals to information privacy. The secondary aim is to assess whether adherence to these values might be used as criteria that can reflect on the business integrity of the web site sponsor. Design/methodology/approach ‐ The privacy notices and information-handling practices of New Zealand business web sites were analysed using a content analysis methodology. The analysis was carried out on a sample of 200 companies, selected at random from a published list of the top 800 companies in New Zealand in 2005. Government web sites were excluded. Findings ‐ The first research hypothesis ‐ that New Zealand business web sites demonstrate awareness of the privacy concerns of customers by posting a privacy notice ‐ was not supported. Similarly, the privacy notices on New Zealand business web sites did not reflect the principles of the New Zealand Privacy Act, 1993 as a basis for establishing "value congruence" with customers. Consequently the use of the principles of the Privacy Act to assess business integrity was not demonstrated sufficiently by the investigation. Practical implications ‐ The lack of a usable convention for evaluating privacy notices on New Zealand business web sites may lead to a loss of value congruence between businesses and their customers, leading to less-than-optimal commercial transactions. The principles of the New Zealand Privacy Act 1993 define the national values and privacy rights of online customers. The use of the Privacy Act to assess the information handling practices of New Zealand businesses online could ensure more ethical business practice, demonstrate business integrity and promote customer confidence. Originality/value ‐ The use of legislated privacy principles as a reflection of established national values on the rights of citizens could provide a useful measure of value congruence and possibly business integrity. The variety of privacy legislation worldwide reflects a global lack of agreement on acceptable principles. Nevertheless, businesses wishing to establish their integrity and value congruence would be advised to ensure that their web sites provide for the growing sensitivity to privacy issues and the way that personal information is gathered and used online.

Keywords: Business ethics; Knowledge management; Privacy; Social values; Worldwide web

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2009-04-17

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