Privacy by Design: Good for CEOs and Consumers, Too
With a proactive approach to privacy protection, today’s companies can head off problems before they start and win over customers.
Thursday, April 07, 2011
New technology can bring new threats to our privacy: Conveniences such as geotracking, payment by smartphone and targeted online ads expose our daily routines, shopping and browsing habits, even political or religious preferences.
Sometimes the right response to a new challenge is an old one.
Privacy by Design (PbD), an approach developed in the 1990s by Ontario, Canada’s information and privacy commissioner, Dr. Ann Cavoukian, has what it takes to help businesses and consumers face rapidly proliferating threats to personal information. PbD calls on businesses to build privacy into their infrastructures in three areas: information technology, accountable business practices and physical design.
PbD has seven basic principles that boil down to this: Proactive, embedded privacy policies are good for businesses and the consumer. Consumers are protected when they patronize businesses that care about their information; businesses have a competitive advantage when customers view them as deeply committed to progressive and thorough privacy policies.
If companies employ PbD, they can offer their customers higher-quality, better-designed products. Greater transparency allows consumers to be confident about how their information is being protected at a particular company—which gives them more and better choices and a more refined market. Businesses are further rewarded when they shield themselves from liability and the high legal costs of a data breach.
Take, for example, Facebook. Like many of its social-networking counterparts, the company did not have its eye on the privacy ball in its early days.
“Facebook has had so many issues,” said Identity Theft 911 chief privacy officer Eduard Goodman, “especially with data mining by third-party app developers.” The company made itself vulnerable to legal action and government intervention when its vendors plundered the personal information of unsuspecting Facebook users.
Those users have also made themselves vulnerable because their pages are inadvertently open to outside scrutiny. “What are all those kids posting crazy things going to do in 10 years when they’re applying for jobs and can’t take down all that stuff?” Goodman said.
PbD is beneficial to businesses of every shape and size, from the company designing smartphones with built-in auto-swiping software (a consumer privacy protection and attractive feature) to McDonald’s, whose customer birthday club data was recently breached by a vendor.
“The greater the transparency, security and privacy that is built into and exercised in the processes businesses implement to collect, use and dispose of sensitive consumer information,” said Adam Levin, Identity Theft 911 chairman and founder, “the greater their opportunity to generate goodwill and lessen their exposure to litigation and enforcement activity.”
PbD can—and should—become a baseline standard for the design of products and services in the information age.
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