User profiling threats real but should you be afraid?

Companies will continue to "push the privacy enveloper" until they have a financial incentive or disincentive to do otherwise.

Following the call by a German privacy agency for local institutions to shut down their Facebook Pages and remove the "Like" button from their Web sites due to user profiling activities that contravenes German and European Union laws, industry watchers said such privacy concerns are legitimate but should be tempered.

Amber Yoo, director of communications at U.S.-based consumer privacy watchdog, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, said advances in technology have made it easy and cheap for companies to collect and store huge amounts of data to create consumer profiles that merge their online and offline behavior and actions. As such, companies will continue to "push the privacy enveloper" until they have a financial incentive or disincentive to do otherwise, she added in her e-mail.

The fundamental issue, according to Graham Titterington, principal analyst of IT security at Ovum, is that identifiable user information no longer belongs to people but to the companies that collect the data and this shift in control is concerning. Some people might just like the convenience of being targeted by advertisers based on such profiling.

For more on this story, read User profiling fears real but paranoia unnecessary on ZDNet Asia.