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Protecting Data Will Be Hard Work

2015 02 16   Peter Feinstein   Media and Regualtion    

Data privacy has gotten a lot of ink in the last two weeks. Two large companies were caught with their hands seemingly in their cookie jars – pun intended – creating the potential for a consumer and regulator backlash.

The issue is broad, complicated and infused with human nature. By now, I feel like I could pen an opus on it. But I have a day job running my ad agency, so I’m just going to cite some relevant articles and give my 2 cents.
In a rush to deploy the their latest whiz-bang technology, Verizon and Samsung gave the impression of overreaching. It didn’t take long for privacy advocates to point out the nefarious potential. The information industry really needs to set aside its enthusiasm for each new application and think through the implications.

In the Comments section following the Samsung story, a reader notes that, regardless of what companies say they’re doing with data today, it can be stored and used for other purposes in the future – which brings the government into the picture.
The rhetoric already is flying.

“This relatively new technology has major implications for people’s privacy,” Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., noted in one of the articles. He urges companies to adopt clear and comprehensive privacy policies, as well as disclose data-sharing arrangements with other companies.

Democrats press the panic button largely because they want more power and control – though they get neither. Meanwhile, Republicans incorrectly frame data privacy as a red/blue issue.

Will Congress act? All it will take is for one high-ranking Republican to suffer the unintended yet inescapable consequences of advanced data collection.

Looking ahead, whoever hoists the banner of personal privacy in 2016 wins, regardless of party affiliation. That said, I maintain that in order to get this addressed with action, we’re going to need a Republican champion who can appreciate and articulate the big picture.

In terms of regulation, the Federal Trade Commission must not only study the implications of big data consolidation but also prevent the consolidation of the personal, private information in the hands of a few entities.
Privacy advocates demand that consumers be empowered to make informed decisions about the use of their personal information, but that isn’t realistic. Americans are bombarded with all manner of new technology. Convenience is the reason so many give away their personal data. Few of them are going to take ownership of their information if it entails more work. Those who do must minimize their outbound “footprints” as best they can – which might not be enough.

Privacy advocates demand that consumers be empowered to make informed decisions about the use of their personal information, but that isn’t realistic. Americans are bombarded with all manner of new technology. Convenience is the reason so many give away their personal data. Few of them are going to take ownership of their information if it entails more work. Those who do must minimize their outbound “footprints” as best they can - which might not be enough.