Not All Shoppers Brave the Malls

Whistleblowers at Work Changing State Law

Corrections or additions?

These articles by Caroline Calogero, Michael Schumacher, and Lynn

Robbins were prepared for the December 13, 2000 edition

of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Internet Privacy? New P3P Guidelines

Getting to know you, getting to know all about you might

have been a fine idea for Anna in Siam, but such attempts by websites

cause many to recoil against this invasion of privacy. Lorrie Faith

Cranor of AT&T Labs-Research will discuss privacy concerns raised

by current online data collection practices at the Princeton Joint

Chapter of the ACM and IEEE Computer Society meeting on Thursday,

December 14, at 8 p.m. at the Sarnoff Corporation. Entitled

"Online Privacy: What are People So Concerned About and What is

Being Done About It," the meeting is free and refreshments are

served. A pre-meeting dinner is at 6 p.m. at the Rusty Scupper. For

reservations, call 609-924-8704.

Cranor confirms our worst suspicions — proprietors of websites

have unprecedented opportunities to amass data about their users.

"The capabilities of companies to gather large amounts of

information on people easily and to correlate it and build profiles

are improving," she says.

But such opportunities are part and parcel of what distinguishes a

web-based transaction from its physical world counterpart. "If

all my interactions with businesses are done on line, it’s much easier

to capture the information about what I’m doing. When I go into a

physical bookstore, you don’t know which books I pick up and browse.

You only know the ones I purchase. In an online bookstore, you can

see which ones I browse as well."

Cranor has a doctorate in engineering and policy from Washington

University

in St. Louis. She has been with AT&T Labs-Research for the past four

years (www.research.att.com/~lorrie/). A hybrid who can talk the talk

with both techies and policy wonks, her presentation will review the

technical mechanisms that companies use to track people on line. She

will also cover recent initiatives to help protect privacy including

anonymity tools, privacy seal programs, legislation, and P3P.

P3P, or the Platform for Privacy Preferences Project, is an effort

of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to produce a standard format

for web users to express privacy preferences and websites to declare

data gathering intentions.

Cranor explains that P3P is not software itself but rather a set of

instructions for software developers. "P3P is a specification.

It’s the recipe that tells somebody who is building a web browser

how to put the privacy standard into their web browser."

P3P aims at enabling the user to set up Web browser software with

personal privacy preferences and information exchange limits. P3P

also allows websites to state their privacy policies in a standardized

format.

With P3P, when web browser meets website, a checking process begins.

Users are notified if there is a mismatch in goals. "You get to

decide what your personal threshold is, and, then, what you want your

browser to do," she says.

When there is a mismatch in objectives — say if a website declares

it can’t function without knowing net worth or pharmacological

history,

and the user is a rather private person — flashing lights and

noises may sound the alarm.

But P3P guidelines are sophisticated enough not to limit users to

only black and white policy statements. P3P-enhanced browsers will

be able to selectively block cookies based on what the website intends

to do with the information. Access to certain private bits of

information

might be permitted only when an order is being placed, as long it

is not sold to other companies.

Websites adhering to P3P guidelines will encode their privacy policy

into a standard format. Variables will include the kind of data

collected,

what is done with the data, and how the data is shared.

P3P-enhanced browsers will complement other privacy protection

strategies.

When browsing leads to buying and anonymity tools or pseudonyms reach

the limit of their usefulness, P3P would take over.

Blast off for the P3P guidelines is near. Cranor anticipates the W3C

will act very soon to officially issue a preliminary recommendation

that the standard is ready for implementation. Cranor has been on

the project since the beginning, the fall of 1996. She now heads the

W3C working group that is drafting technical specifications for P3P.

Cranor says Microsoft is among the companies building software using

P3P and that its product will be released next spring. AT&T is also

considering involvement. "AT&T has tried to be a leader in

protecting

customer privacy. We’re looking into the possibility of whether it

would be useful to provide some software just to get P3P started,"

she says.

Her approach to protecting her own privacy on line is "not a whole

lot. I actually do try to read privacy policies at websites, and I

am very cautious about providing personal information," she says.

She will avoid sites with invasive policies and does use fake names

when possible.

Nevertheless, Cranor finds anonymity tools cumbersome and does not

use one. She has used tools that block cookies but those tools also

have drawbacks: "On many websites I really want to use cookies

because I don’t want to remember passwords."

She is currently working on a book about P3P, which she hopes will

reach both the digitally dexterous and the hopelessly analog. "My

attempt is to target a mixed audience. What I’ve found is that there

are a lot of non-technical people who would like some background in

some of the technology at a level they can understand. There are also

technical people who would like the background about privacy

laws."

That Cranor’s graduate work focussed on electronic voting leads to

a final question on a somewhat different issue — the post-election

miasma. She seconds the instincts of many Americans not associated

with Florida boards of elections. "Unfortunately there’s no one

magic answer here. There are some things that they did that clearly

asked for trouble, and using punch card ballots was the first

problem."

— Caroline Calogero

Top Of Page
Not All Shoppers Brave the Malls

Trepidation is in the air this holiday season as

traditional

brick and mortar retailers brace themselves for the onslaught of

business

they won’t receive. That’s because an estimated $11.6 billion will

be spent this month in Internet purchases, as projected by the

Manhattan-based

consulting firm Jupiter Research. That figure is up from $7 billion

last year. And the number of individuals purchasing online this year

is anticipated to be 35 million Americans compared with 20 million

in 1999.

"I expect to do 80 to 100 percent of my holiday shopping online

this year," says Laura Grigni, a financial marketing

professional

at First Union. "That’s almost twice as much as last year for

me." Like so many others, Grigni is lured by the convenience of

shopping online, but also adds, "I prefer to shop from home rather

than deal with the crowds at the malls, where too often merchandise

has already been picked over and boxes are torn. At least online,

the items are neatly packed and better suited for gift-giving."

The impact of sentiments such as Grigni’s will attract business owners

and marketing professionals to the two-day seminar "E-strategy:

How to Build Your E-marketing and E-business Strategies," held

Thursday and Friday, December 14 and 15, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

at Rutgers’ University Inn and Conference Center at 178 Ryders Lane

in New Brunswick. Cost: $995. Call 732-932-8274, or E-mail:

ccpd@rci.rutgers.edu.

"Any business owner who is not currently thinking and addressing

their business from an `E-approach’ is making a mistake," says

seminar leader Bill Hendricks. The learning curve is steep,

he admits, "and the investment of time is as significant as the

financial investment."

E-commerce is more than making money and selling something on the

Internet. Instead, says Hendricks, ask the broader question: "Do

I need better and more effective ways to develop relationships with

my customers?"

Hendricks, a consultant in the E-business sector for over 15 years,

was contracted as seminar presenter by the New York-based Orion

Development

Group. He earned a BA in education from the University of Northern

Iowa in 1971, followed by a master’s in divinity from Asbury Seminary

and a doctorate from the University of Dubuque. He has worked as a

management consultant for Mobil GIS, Shell Chemical, and the insurance

company CGU. Hendricks is also a certified Myers-Briggs Personality

Type Indicator and a deBono Creativity Instructor and lives in

Overland

Park, Kansas.

"Basically, there are two groups trying to capitalize on the

Internet

and E-commerce opportunities," says Hendricks. "Both are

struggling

to make sense of the maze of information and mastering the technology

is nearly overwhelming for both." The key is very different for

each of these two groups:

1. Established businesses with an existing customer base.

"Their question is financial and their solution is to approach

E-commerce from a customer perspective." Because they have a solid

business foundation, they must build a return on investment that takes

into consideration the value of the customer and the opportunity

available

through the Internet. A genuine customer-centric approach will calm

some of the fears and help this group remain well directed as they

learn the Internet and discover which aspects of E-commerce make good

business sense.

2. Those trying to start up a business. "The lure

and promise of tapping into a captive market using the Internet can

be very tempting and a very costly mistake!" says Hendricks.

"It

is easy to be led astray and naively think that the world is just

waiting to click on your new site. For this group of business people,

the strategy is to go slow: crawl before you walk, walk before you

run and when you have a clear sense of your market run —

fast!"

The two-day program will cover the gamut of electronic commerce

from the definition of electronic commerce and the basics of Internet

marketing to the more complex "Integrated E-strategy Thinking"

and "Building An E-strategy Scorecard." Hendricks says the

workshop will provide not only awareness of E-strategies, but also

concrete business solutions. "If you have a problem, bring it!

The two questions I expect people to ask are `So what?’ and `Who

cares?’"

When asked how small businesses can compete with larger ones on the

Internet, Hendricks says that the power of the Internet and E-commerce

is that it is a great equalizer. "Small companies and mega

corporations

are all competing for the same `click of the mouse.’ The ability to

sell online is not expensive. If you compare the advertising power

of Amazon.com versus a local bookstore, then there is a great gap.

But that exists regardless of the Internet."

He lists challenges for those building an effective E-commerce

business:

Capital. It takes money to market a business, any

business.

The misconception that anyone can jump into this market and make a

killing is hurting good companies. Most people who provide a quality

product or a good service are in the business for the long haul. Get

the stars out of your eyes and invest in a long-term, slow-growth

plan.

Service first. Develop an internal system that lives and

breathes customer service. Word of mouth has always been the best

marketing tool, and the web exacerbates both positive and negative

customer experiences.

Think community. The Internet allows a business to amass

a group of individuals from across the globe around common needs and

issues. Too frequently websites focus on what "we offer"

rather

than "what customers do." Building client relationships and

developing a knowledge base of what a customer does with your business

is a great differentiator.

Scorecard. It is easy to capture tons of data and know

very little. Develop an E-commerce scorecard that aligns with the

overall business direction.

Keep it simple. Many businesses over-complicate things.

If it can’t be done easily, it is probably wrong.

Know your audience. Remember that the majority of the

people connected to the Internet are not operating on the latest and

fastest equipment. Many are still creeping along and excited with

the chance to see what they are seeing. If you design for the five

percent of the world that is really "wired" you may miss your

market.

Remember the human factor. The clicks and hits you

experience

on your site represent people. Never forget that it is people who

buy products and consume services. Always direct your attention to

the human factor.

According to Jupiter Group analysts, "today’s Internet

audience

still largely consists of newbies (24 percent) and intermediate users

(49 percent), with many people using the web to windowshop and then

going out to purchase on the high street. By 2002, over half (51

percent)

the online population will have become veterans, and their likelihood

to shop online as well as their spending will increase

accordingly."

That doesn’t leave much time for those businesses not yet in the fray

to gear up. Those prepared to take the leap should arrive at the

Rutgers

seminar with a sense of what they want to do, suggests Hendricks.

"Bring every piece of customer information you can, and from the

first moments in the seminar, keep asking me to provide answers, not

just theory."

— Michael Schumacher

Top Of Page
Whistleblowers at Work Changing State Law

More than ever, employers need to understand New

Jersey’s

whistleblower law, officially termed the Conscientious Employee

Protection

Act (CEPA), cautions Earl M. Bennett of the Carnegie Center-based

law firm, Saul Ewing LLC.

Employees who complain of employers’ perceived wrongdoings are likely

to get increasing protection against retaliatory action, thanks to

several recent Supreme Court rulings. So when an employee makes a

complaint related to your business, you need to know what to do and

not do, how to avoid mistakes that could constitute retaliatory

action,

and how to protect yourself against false claims.

Bennett and his colleague, Catherine B. Rinaldi, will give

practical

suggestions and case examples in a seminar titled "Retaliation

in the Workplace: The Changing Contours of New Jersey Whistleblower

Law" on Thursday, December 14, at 8 a.m. at Saul Ewing’s offices

at 214 Carnegie Center, Suite 202. Cost: $40. Call 609-452-3159

(E-mail:

ebennett@saul.com).

Under CEPA, an employer cannot take retaliatory actions against an

employee because he or she complains either within or outside the

company about alleged misconduct. The employee is also protected if

he testifies in an investigation or refuses to participate in any

activity he believes is unlawful, fraudulent, or is a threat to the

welfare of the public or the environment.

This New Jersey whistleblower law dates back to 1980 when the Supreme

Court ruled that employers could not terminate employees for refusing

to engage in activities that violate the law (Pierce v. Ortho

Pharmaceutical

Corp). The 1986 CEPA law further protects employees not only from

termination, suspension or demotion, but also from any action that

adversely affects an employee’s working conditions. Since then, the

Supreme Court has expanded the statute in several rulings.

As an employer, here’s what you need to know:

Your employee does not need to prove the alleged misconduct

he reports. The court ruled against Mobil Oil Corporation in the

landmark case involving Princeton resident and ex-Mobil employee Myron

Mehlman, who said he was terminated for opposing the sale of

gasoline

with too much benzene content. This 1993 ruling said that an employee

need not prove misconduct as long as he has reasonable belief and

is acting in good faith. In other words, says Bennett, "an

objecting

employee is not expected to be a lawyer."

Your employee is protected if he complains about another

worker, even if you don’t condone that worker’s behavior. In 1999,

Higgins v. Pascack Valley Hospital, CEPA was expanded to include an

employee’s complaints against co-workers, even if the employer is

not complicit in the co-worker’s conduct.

Your employee is protected even if the alleged misconduct

does not victimize the public. Earlier this year, in Roach v. TRW

Inc, the court decided that an employee is protected against

retaliatory

action even if the misconduct victimizes only the employer. Examples

could include complaints about a co-worker or supervisor cheating

on an expense report, coming to work late, or taking excessive coffee

breaks.

Your employee has the right to testify. Also this year,

In DeLisa v. County of Bergen, the court decided that CEPA protects

employees who participate in investigations or testify before public

bodies.

Your employee is not required to follow your company’s reporting

policy . On June 7 of this year, in a case involving a nurse who

was fired by Correctional Healthcare Solutions Inc., the Supreme Court

decided that employees cannot be fired for going over their

supervisor’s

head, acknowledging that sometimes an employee must break the chain

of command when objecting to a serious problem.

Seminar leaders Bennett and Rinaldi are members of Saul Ewing’s

Labor and Employment Law Department in its Carnegie Center office.

Rinaldi went to Saint Joseph’s University and Seton Hall Law School.

Bennett has his undergraduate degree from Harvard and his law degree

from Rutgers.

To prevent problems resulting from employee complaints, Bennett

advises:

Think prevention. Adopt a written policy that addresses employee

concerns

about wrongdoing. If an employee does complain, establish an

investigative

team of at least two people. Interview the plaintiff and witnesses.

Prepare a written report and clearly state that no retaliatory action

will be taken if the complaint has been made in good faith.

What if an employee does accuse you of retaliatory action? Bennett

cautions that the employer must show the court evidence that its

actions

related to the employee were not based on retaliation. The employer

must have documentation showing why the employee was terminated,

disciplined,

or otherwise acted upon. If the employer has accurate and solid

documentation,

the burden of proof rests with the employee.

— Lynn Robbins


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