We can argue all day long on how sites should be collecting, using or even selling your personal data… or even whether or not they should be able to… but we’re missing a huge issue surrounding the entire debacle.
There are a few key points I believe:
- It’s not the responsibility of a company to decide how to use your information once you blindly provide it to them… that’s your responsibility.
- On the other hand, consumers do not know how companies are actually utilizing their data – so they are rightfully indignant when they find out it was used in a manner they did not expect. Pages and pages of confusing options and privacy statements that are nothing but legalese with holes the size of Texas to walk through are not the answer.
- If the company is collecting this data, it’s their responsibility to have safeguards in place to ensure only authorized personnel can access it.
Instead or arguing the benefits or legalities of privacy, why don’t we instead focus the privacy industry to work with companies to produce a unified system for effectively communicating how your personal data is utilized. Much like Creative Commons is the open source answer to digital rights management, we should have a Privacy Commons that a consumer can easily digest to understand. Some examples might be:
- Whether or not their data is being sold to third parties.
- Whether or not their data is being accessed by third parties.
- Whether or not their data is being anonymously compiled and distributed to third parties.
- Whether or not their data is being anonymously compiled and distributed internally.
- Whether or not their data is being used to personally target.
- Whether or not their data is being anonymously used to target.
- Whether or not their activities are tracked personally.
- Whether or not their activities are tracked anonymously.
Along with whether the data is being tracked and distributed, we could explain how it’s being utilized:
- To sell for profit.
- To provide a unique customer experience.
- To provide personalized offers and advertising.
- To improve the quality of the overall product.
Companies could then go so far as to release the personal data to the consumer. Google has actually started this with their Account Management console, where I can review some of the information, destroy my history, or even stop them from utilizing it.
As a marketer and consumer, I don’t want to stop companies from utilizing my personal data. I believe as companies continue to collect information about me, they’re able to better serve me. As an example, I think it’s okay that Apple knows my own Music library, for instance, since they actually make some intelligent recommendations based on my history.