Company Reports Privacy Flaw in Communicator 4.5

Netscape’s latest Communicator 4.5 browser suite released in beta last week includes many improved features, including the ability for users to access their own personal information–such as bookmarks, e-mail and address books–from almost anywhere on the Internet using their standard Web browser.

The bookmark feature is accessed by the user through the Netscape Web site, but according to Jonathan Spira, an analyst with research and consulting firm Virtual Basex, there’s a potential privacy issue that goes along with this new feature.

“What Netscape is doing is having its users upload their personal bookmarks to a centralized Netscape database,” said Spira. “Unfortunately, they are not warning their users that this is what’s taking place, and also that others (i.e. Netscape) might have access to this highly personal data. The user simply may not realize that he is doing more than accessing a feature in his personal browser software.”

Netscape does post a privacy policy statement that is featured on each page in which data is or might be collected, but it only covers the addresses and information that is collected on forms and in the cookies.txt file.

As of this morning, the privacy policy statement did not cover the concerns over the newest features of Communicator 4.5. Netscape Netcenter’s product manager Ken Hickman was quick to state that “while we might use the aggregated and de-personalized data internally to build better services, we have no plans or interest in selling or giving that information to 3rd parties.”

According to Virtual Basex, Netscape Vice President Peter Harder indicated that Netscape would create and post a specific policy for the bookmark feature.

For additional information, visit the Virtual Basex Web site.

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