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Nuts & Bolts - Eye on Privacy : Can Anyone Be Against Online Privacy?

March 2011 By Gwenn Freeman
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If asked in a survey, "Are you for or against online privacy?" what would you say? Can anyone really be against it?

Once again, direct marketers find themselves on the wrong side of Mom and apple pie. The Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Commerce have each convened task forces to look at the issues of online privacy and to make recommendations on how to protect consumers online. In this scenario, marketers have been put on the defensive.

The FTC issued a preliminary report in early December calling for a new privacy framework to include three main components:

1. adopting a "privacy by design" approach by building privacy protections into everyday business practices;
2. providing choices to consumers about business practices in a simpler, more streamlined way; and
3. taking measures to make data practices more transparent to consumers.

The Department of Commerce released its preliminary report later in December, recommending:

1. establishing Fair Information Practice Principles comparable to a "Privacy Bill of Rights";
2. developing enforceable privacy codes of conduct and creating a Privacy Policy Office in the Department of Commerce;
3. encouraging worldwide interoperability;
4. harmonizing disparate security breach notification rules; and
5. reviewing the Electronic Communications Privacy Act for cloud computing.

When the FTC released its report, there were balanced articles in The New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal. But after a few days, the FTC proposal was just being referred to as "Do Not Track" in the mainstream media. Does "online privacy" really equate to "do not track"? I'm not sure that the issue is tracking or the collection of data. The issue seems to be consumer trust.

The Privacy Paradox
Consumers are always being "tracked." Every time they use credit cards or loyalty cards, when they order from catalogs, enter a store with surveillance or use a cell phone, someone is tracking them.

Do consumers really expect to be anonymous online? I doubt it. But I do believe that consumers want to know what they are trading in return for the free content, convenient ordering, relevant messaging and targeted offers.

 

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