Data Privacy Day -- Version 2012

As we celebrate Data Privacy Day, we bear witness to a number of new privacy policies which are being presented, dare one say thrust, upon user populations for major online social networks.
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As we draw Data Privacy Month 2012 to a close and celebrate Data Privacy Day on 28 January, we bear witness to a number of new privacy policies which are being presented, dare one say thrust, upon user populations for major online social networks.

Let's look at Google, who in complete transparency has rolled out their new Privacy Policy (effective date March 1, 2012) which states in clear and unambiguous terms: Google collects information. You also give Google information -- i.e. your profile. When you are visiting their services -- they may collect specific information on your device; information with respect to your session -- i.e. IP address; your queries; and cookies. If you turn on your device's GPS, they may collect your exact geographical locale (see "Double Edge Sword of Location Based Services"). Perhaps the most important aspect is how they use your information, with your consent: "We will share personal information with companies, organizations or individuals outside of Google when we have your consent to do so. We require opt-in consent for the sharing of any sensitive personal information." If you are using Google, you want to get in there and look at what information you have provided your consent for Google to share. (Here's Google's privacy page)

Meanwhile over at Facebook, they too have streamlined and rendered more readable their privacy policies. Important to understand is the information they receive about you: You provide info at registration; you also provide information via your posts, photo and videos and tagging activities; they do collate the information others share about you (tagging or on your wall); and those games or applications you use also provides Facebook data about you; and here too, if you provide your location then your location is retained. There is a whole section on that information which you choose to make public -- read it. And they too divulge how your information will be used: to provide you with a better experience; and they too share information with others only when you have provide your consent; given you notice how and what information will be shared; and removed personally identifying information. If you are using Facebook, you want to get in there as well and lock down your privacy settings at the levels commensurate with your comfort level. (Here's Facebook's privacy page)

While there are many other environments, I believe these two are representative of the current state of affairs with respect to user/consumer privacy. Are you content and comfortable with this as the status quo? No? Neither am I.

I'd like to see industry move to an environment where the preferences and identity of the consumer are 100 percent controlled by the individual consumer. In the good ol' days a coupon drawn from the Thursday paper for eggs, and utilized at the supermarket, would provide to the retailer feedback on the marketing medium which brought you into the store (i.e. measurable results); would allow the retailer to determine if the "eggs" were an effective draw, what other goods were also purchased (also measurable). But it wasn't necessary for the individual to reveal their identity for the transaction to occur, for the consumer to receive their goods and for the merchant to be successful.

I want the retailer to provide to me the best possible recommendation, personalize it for me, but without my being required to provide my personal identity to make it happen. Industry must drive to present to me, the consumer, the right service, the right content and the right product at the right time, based on my individualized preferences, which are provided without my individual identity and thus ensuring my privacy. I think we can and should strive to achieve this in 2012 so that Privacy Day version 2013 will be known as the day the consumer had total control of their privacy.

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