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Privacy in E-Commerce: Development of Reporting Standards, Disclosure and Assurance Services in an Unregulated Market


  • Shyam Sunder
  • Michael Maier
  • Karim Jamal


Government regulation of financial reporting by publicly listed firms, coupled with a punitive regime for violation of generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), has been in place in the United States for seven decades. Whether this regime is effective or useful is an open question, especially in the absence of data on the behavior of unregulated economies. Privacy disclosure in e-commerce is essentially an unregulated environment with some parallels to financial disclosure. A study of privacy standards, disclosures practices and demand for audits can help accountants and security regulators project the consequences of a competitive regime sans regulation for accounting standards, disclosure and audit practices, and the effectiveness of opt-out practices of 100 high-traffic e-commerce Web sites. We observe four diverse sets of privacy standards (TRUSTe, BBB Online, WebTrust, and PWC Privacy) competing in this market, attracting clienteles of their own as reflected in privacy policies and the disclosure of such policies. With a few exceptions, actual disclosure and opt-out practices correspond reasonably well to stated policies in e-commerce. There is little evidence that the prevailing competitive regime induces a race to the bottom with respect to privacy standards and disclosures. We explore the implications of these results for the consequences of a competitive regime for regulation of financial reporting.

Suggested Citation

  • Shyam Sunder & Michael Maier & Karim Jamal, 2002. "Privacy in E-Commerce: Development of Reporting Standards, Disclosure and Assurance Services in an Unregulated Market," Yale School of Management Working Papers ysm359, Yale School of Management, revised 01 Dec 2002.
  • Handle: RePEc:ysm:somwrk:ysm359

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Shyam Sunder & Matthew Cronin & Darrin Filer & Robert Kraut & James Morris & Rahul Telang & Proceedings the, 2002. "Markets for Attention: Will Postage for Email Help?," Yale School of Management Working Papers ysm394, Yale School of Management, revised 01 Oct 2008.
    2. Feroz, Eh & Park, K & Pastena, Vs, 1991. "The Financial And Market Effects Of The Secs Accounting And Auditing Enforcement Releases," Journal of Accounting Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 29, pages 107-142.
    3. Sunder, Shyam, 2002. "Regulatory competition for low cost-of-capital accounting rules," Journal of Accounting and Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 21(2), pages 147-149.
    4. Michael L. Katz & Carl Shapiro, 1994. "Systems Competition and Network Effects," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 8(2), pages 93-115, Spring.
    5. Shyam Sunder, 2001. "Standards for Corporate Financial Reporting: Regulatory Competition Within and Across International Boundaries," Yale School of Management Working Papers ysm245, Yale School of Management, revised 01 Apr 2002.
    6. S. J. Liebowitz & Stephen E. Margolis, 1994. "Network Externality: An Uncommon Tragedy," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 8(2), pages 133-150, Spring.
    7. Shyam NMI Sunder & Ronald A. Dye, 2001. "Why Not Allow the FASB and IASB Standards to Compete in the U.S.?," Yale School of Management Working Papers ysm192, Yale School of Management.
    8. Rong-Ruey Duh & Karim Jamal & Shyam NMI Sunder, 2001. "Control and Assurance in E-Commerce: Privacy, Integrity and Security at eBay," Yale School of Management Working Papers ysm170, Yale School of Management.
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    Cited by:

    1. Jamal, Karim & Sunder, Shyam, 2011. "Is mandated independence necessary for audit quality?," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 36(4), pages 284-292.
    2. Alessandro Acquisti & Curtis Taylor & Liad Wagman, 2016. "The Economics of Privacy," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 54(2), pages 442-492, June.
    3. Ananda R. Ganguly & Joshua Herbold & Mark E. Peecher, 2007. "Assurer Reputation for Competence in a Multiservice Context," Contemporary Accounting Research, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 24(1), pages 133-170, March.
    4. Madsen Paul E., 2013. "Evaluating Accounting Standards: A Comment on Ramanna’s ‘The International Politics of IFRS Harmonization’," Accounting, Economics, and Law: A Convivium, De Gruyter, vol. 3(2), pages 1-15, January.
    5. Maggie Hao & Dana A. Forgione & Liang Guo & Hongxian Zhang, 2017. "Improvement in clinical trial disclosures and analysts’ forecast accuracy: evidence from the pharmaceutical industry," Review of Quantitative Finance and Accounting, Springer, vol. 49(3), pages 785-810, October.
    6. Boulianne, Emilio & Cho, Charles H., 2009. "The rise and fall of WebTrust," International Journal of Accounting Information Systems, Elsevier, vol. 10(4), pages 229-244.
    7. Shyam Sunder & Karim Jamal, 2006. "Regulation, Competition and Independence in a Certification Society: Financial Reports Vs. Baseball Cards," Yale School of Management Working Papers amz2578, Yale School of Management, revised 01 Jun 2007.
    8. Il-Horn Hann & Kai-Lung Hui & Yee-Lin Lai & S.Y.T. Lee & I.P.L. PNG, 2006. "Who gets spammed?," Natural Field Experiments 00271, The Field Experiments Website.
    9. Karim Jamal & Shyam Sunder, 2011. "Unregulated Markets for Audit Services," The Japanese Accounting Review, Research Institute for Economics & Business Administration, Kobe University, vol. 1, pages 1-16, December.
    10. Brenčič, Vera, 2014. "Search online: Evidence from acquisition of information on online job boards and resume banks," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 112-125.
    11. Adam Esplin & Karim Jamal & Shyam Sunder, 2018. "Demand for and Assessment of Audit Quality in Private Companies," Abacus, Accounting Foundation, University of Sydney, vol. 54(3), pages 319-352, September.
    12. Davison, Jane, 2014. "Visual rhetoric and the case of intellectual capital," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 39(1), pages 20-37.
    13. DeFond, Mark & Zhang, Jieying, 2014. "A review of archival auditing research," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 58(2), pages 275-326.

    More about this item


    e-commerce; Privacy; Regulatory Competition; Financial Reporting Standards;

    JEL classification:

    • K22 - Law and Economics - - Regulation and Business Law - - - Business and Securities Law
    • L51 - Industrial Organization - - Regulation and Industrial Policy - - - Economics of Regulation
    • L86 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Information and Internet Services; Computer Software
    • M41 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Accounting - - - Accounting
    • G38 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Government Policy and Regulation


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