Panel: Understanding the data 'privacy gap' between consumers, businesses

Panel: Understanding the data 'privacy gap' between consumers, businesses

Summary: Government and Silicon Valley leaders debate the gap between consumers giving away their personal data without actually comprehending how it is being used.

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Consumers are giving away more and more of their personal data online each day, but it's debatable how much they understand--or trust--where their information is going.

In support of International Data Privacy Day next week, The Churchill Club technology forum in partnership with Microsoft hosted a panel of government and Silicon Valley leaders to discuss what is being described as "the privacy gap."

But before deciding what privacy gaps might exist, the definition of privacy itself also seems to be up for debate in the digital age.

Pat Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum, argued that "privacy is a continuum," explaining that the concept of either having privacy or not "doesn't work in the digital era."

One example that Dixon cited was understanding the difference between facial detection and facial recognition. The former, she said, doesn't necessarily store images and can't be used for the potentially more dangerous uses that facial recognition could be.

Jon Potter, president of the non-profit industry group Application Developers Alliance (ADA), commented that he's "a huge believer in consumer choice," specifying that this means "informed choices," and letting consumers make choices--informed choices.

"I also think the whole idea of privacy is a quirky word," said Potter. He mentioned that the ADA has surveyed consumers, noting that "well over 60 percent" of them are comfortable with sharing personal data.

The issues, he continued, then become about establishing "effective communication" between consumers and companies about what data is being collected, how it is being shared, and perhaps most importantly, if that business has had any data breaches.

Microsoft Chief Privacy Officer Brendon Lynch retorted that "effective communication" is too difficult to achieve these days because most consumers just want to move on and "get the value of whatever the app is."

"They're really just looking for a label of safety and protection," Lynch said.

He described that Microsoft's approach is "privacy by design." Lynch explained that this means thinking about privacy from the inception point of a product or service, all the way through development and production.

Lynch acknowledged that this involves a combination of things--including effective notice and communication--but he said that it's "often its a matter of choosing better default settings on behalf of users."

Laura Berger, an attorney in the division of Privacy and Identity Protection at the Federal Trade Commission, posited that a lot of businesses are trying to communicate more effectively with consumers about data collection.

But she followed up that some companies fail to present this information to users in a clearer (or at least less deceptive) manner.

"We're all agreeing that the holy grail for this area is really effective consumer choice," Berger said. "I don't know anyone who says 'I don't think consumers should have a choice.'"

However, Potter remarked that consumer choice should equal "control" and not "a buffet" for businesses to do whatever they like.

"Choice might just be a blanket yes or no. The key is that you know that you have a choice," Potter asserted.

Topics: Privacy, Consumerization, Government, Microsoft, Security

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3 comments
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  • It's time to take back our information

    Just because actions I take can be captured and stored somewhere in a corporate database, that does NOT mean I should have to give up the right to have that transaction data quarantined to prevent it from being given or sold to anyone who wants to have it.

    We should immediately put rules in place that require that all personally-identifiable information be stored in encrypted form, that only data sufficient to provide a service or product should be collected, and that my transactional data cannot be shared with ANY third party without my explicit consent.

    I know that businesses need to analyze their operations, and I'm not opposed to the use of aggregrate data scrubbed of all personal information. But the concept of my transaction data being a "business record" that can be used in any way a business wants to use it is a concept that needs to die, quickly and effeciently.

    Business people will scream bloody murder about the prospect of losing this personal information, but that argument is just a straw man. All the wailing about smoking bans in restaurants, or the Do Not Call list putting telemarketers out of business was just a big lie. We are better off without smoking in public places, and no one can find any stories of telemarketers' families being thrown out in the streets. In the same fashion, we will be better off when I can control what is done with my transactional information.
    DrTechnical.db
  • Awareness of the data we consume and create....

    When will the push to understand how we personally consume and create data begin? Not as a society. Individual metrics. We may think we know how we consume/create but I suspect our understanding lacks depth......simple data usage tracking is a tip of an iceberg of personal data mining. It's a fundamental question that needs to be asked. I'm sure there's an app for that ;-)
    Scott Bell
  • Get lost

    The statements from 'Silicon valley leaders' in this discussion are so biased towards global corporates, so obviously complete and utter crap that I break my New Year Resolution to try and be nice on public forums ... and tell you that these people ought to be imprisoned.

    1. "The definition of privacy itself also seems to be up for debate in the digital age."
    No it isn't: a layman understands what privacy is without explanation or legal leech-speak. We do not want to waste billions on corporate legal BS ... we want honest dealings. If corporates have to spend billions to define the term then they can get lost as far as I am concerned.

    2. "Privacy is a continuum." Did you give my data away or not? Please explain the difference between 'yes' and 'no' ... and your imaginary continuum. And for information technology experts please explain the difference between 0 and 1 ... before you get lost.

    3. "I also think the whole idea of privacy is a quirky word."
    That would be because you are an idiot.

    4. "well over 60 percent" of them are comfortable with sharing personal data.
    I am comfortable sharing my personal data ... with whom I please. I am infuriated with global corporates who think that by connecting to their website I have given them permission to monetize my arse. Get lost.

    5. "Microsoft chief privacy officer Brendon Lynch retorted that "effective communication" is too difficult to achieve."
    We have observed MSFT's pitiful attempts at communication: the degree of ineptitude is legendary. How about 'this PC is NOT CAPABLE of running windows VISTA because its graphics card is not powerful enough' ... instead of trying to define the English word CAPABLE.
    Get lost.

    6. "They're really just looking for a label of safety and protection,"
    Indeed: as opposed to a constant reign of deliberate unlawful exploitation.

    7. "often its a matter of choosing better default settings on behalf of users."
    The idea of MSFT choosing better defaults is about as palatable as Steve Jobs choosing the purchase price. Get lost.

    8. "But she followed up that some companies fail to present this information to users in a clearer (or at least less deceptive) manner."
    Corporates have a long history of cheating, abuse and unlawful operations. Their marketing operations are basically deceit engines. Get lost.

    9. "I don't know anyone who says 'I don't think consumers should have a choice.'"
    Try every global corporate. Get lost.

    If these are the leaders, I know why we in a mess.

    Get lost.
    jacksonjohn