Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Privacy, transparency, credentials and travel: When it could be good to be known

Have you ever waited in line at a security checkpoint thinking: "I wish these people knew exactly who I am, in which case they would know that I'm not a threat and could be waived through?" Maybe it's me, but I have that thought a lot, even though I know full well that the entity doing the controlling might want to know a lot about me in order to give me a free pass or expedited processing.

In fact, when it comes to the U.S. government, it already does know a lot about me. And you might be surprised to hear this, but I'm fine with that, so far.

If I were to place myself on the "privacy meter" on the right, I am very much an open book. This could just be a matter of personality, but as I was standing in line at passport control in Houston last week, it occurred to me that my embrace of transparency may also have something to do with my being an immigrant, a naturalized U.S. citizen, someone who chose to live in America (about 30 years ago).

I think there may be subtle ways in which my attitude to privacy differs from that of some other American citizens, namely, the ones who just happened to be born here and never left. As I sometimes say during presentations about privacy to American audiences: "Unlike most of you, I passed a test to be here." (This line gets a big laugh, even among very conservative audiences, which I take as a sign of the natural good humor and empathy of the American public.)

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Privacy still a vital concern for online businesses

In light of Privacy Awareness Week, I just wanted to remind folks about availability of my privacy book, the first few chapters of which are still a decent primer on privacy for business, despite being about ten years old. The book is free to download in handy .pdf format, searchable and with a table of contents. Here is the opening of Chapter 1:

Privacy is currently a subject of great concern to many consumers. You probably know this already—you are reading this book—but the point is worth emphasizing. No business today can claim ignorance of the importance of privacy as a concern among consumers, a concern that can have significant business impacts, from increased costs to revenues lost, from brand dilution to stock price depression. Every company that wants to interact with customers via the Internet should know that privacy concerns are the primary impediment to such interaction.
And more from later in the same chapter:
Privacy is a formidable challenge because nobody yet understands exactly what privacy means in today’s highly interconnected, heavily computerized, data-dependent world. About the best we can say is that privacy in the information age is a work in progress. In the same way that environmental risks continue to emerge as the dark side of the industrial/technological age, emerging privacy risks have been cast as the dark side of the information age. Whether or not you agree with that assessment, it is indisputable that many people see databases and computer networks as a threat to their personal privacy. Thus, to the extent that your business depends on access to, or makes use of, personal information, you will want to provide reassurances to those who need them, regarding the handling and protection of their personal information.

Interested? Why not download it now?

Privacy Awareness Week 2013

The Asia Pacific Privacy Authorities forum invite you to participate in Privacy Awareness Week (PAW) 2013 to be held from 28 April to 4 May. PAW is held each year to promote greater privacy awareness and the importance of protecting personal information.

Privacy Awareness Week 2013

Privacy Fail: Why someone without MS gets MS related marketing material

This NYT article of privacy caught my eye because for a while we thought my wife might have Multiple Sclerosis. So, like the person in the article, I also researched MS on the web. The article describes how a "search online for information about various diseases, including M.S., on a number of consumer health sites" lead to targeting as an MS sufferer (which has serious potential ramifications for health insurance, employment, etc.).

Provides a good window into the murky market in personal data, a lot of it wholly erroneous. Now consumers have to add "murky data markets" to "dark markets" and the "deep web" when it comes to areas of concern about electronic privacy, data security, and the power of free (to-do-harm) markets.
Personal Data Takes a Winding Path Into Marketers’ Hands - NYTimes.com