No consumer control over commercialization of their privacy? -- Part XII Privacy-Publicacy Series

Increasingly the "underground currency" of the Internet is private data.

  • Private information is valuable to many Internet businesses, because in the absence of a system where consumers can assert ownership of and control over their privacy, privacy can be taken from them for free and profited from with little to no obligation to, or compensation due, to the affected user/consumer.  
  • In effect, the increasing practice of commercializing privacy by publicacy businesses increasingly creates new risks for consumers in return for little to no protection or reward.

Why are private data a de facto "underground currency" on the Internet? Well, most consumers are unaware that they are not in control of their private information. For example, a Consumer Reports 9-25-08 consumer survey found:

  • "61% are confident that what they do online is private and not shared without their permission;
  • 57% incorrectly believe that companies must identify themselves and indicate why they are collecting data and whether they intend to share it with other organizations;
  • 48% incorrectly believe their consent is required for companies to use the personal information they collect from online activities..."   

The current technology-driven, "Swiss cheese" privacy framework may be the worst of all possible worlds. 

  • In the absence of a consumer-driven, technology neutral, platform agnostic privacy framework, consumers have neither a meaningful role in protecting their privacy nor the freedom to exploit some of the value of their private information -- if that is their choice.
    • Simply, the current haphazard privacy framework affords an individual no meaningful-informed choice to either protect or benefit themselves in the marketplace arena of their private information. 

A technology-driven privacy framework ironically puts privacy and consumers last. Even more ironic, it also can be decades out-of-date with technology advances. Technology-driven privacy is all about what's best for the technology model -- consumers are an afterthought. The ultimate irony here may be that the Internet interests that say they believe in empowering end users with choice, often are opposed to empowering end-users/consumers when it comes to privacy choice. 

  • Since it is consumers' private information that is being taken and exploited without much meaningful consent by the consumer, and since it is consumers which are most at risk from having their most private information stolen or used inappropriately, wouldn't it be logical for a consumer privacy framework to be more oriented around a consumer's ongoing perspective rather than the technology snapshot perspective of a particular point in time?
  • Clearly businesses should be free to fairly represent and engage consumers in a fair market transaction over the disposition of their private information -- a fair market transaction where consumers are able to effectively understand and negotiate the risk/reward value of sharing their private information.
  • Since a consumer is the only one who knows what information about their personal situation, interests, views and intentions, they are comfortable in sharing for what purposes, wouldn't it be logical to have a privacy framework that empowered consumers with real input and influence over either protecting or exploiting their own interests, whatever they may be?      

In closing, doesn't it seem logical for consumer privacy to be a matter of a consumer's meaningful individual choice?


Privacy-Publicacy Faultline Series here:

  • Part I: The Growing Privacy-Publicacy Fault-line -- The Tension Underneath World Data Privacy Day 
  • Part II: Implications of User Location Tracking
  • Part III: Extreme Publicacy -- Does Privacy Stand a Chance?
  • Part VI: Why FTC’s Behavioral-Ad Principles Are a Big Deal
  • Part V: Privacy prevailed in Facebook's privacy-publicacy earthquake
  • Part VI: Do People Own Their Private Information Online?  
  • Part VII: Where is the line between privacy and publicacy? 
  • Part VIII: "Privacy is Over"
  • Part IX: "Interventional Targeting? "Get into people's heads" 
  • Part X: "Latest publicacy arguments against privacy"
  • Part XI: "The Web 2.0 movement is opposed to the privacy movement."