Privacy is an evolving topic with diverse perspectives on how best to balance the rights and interests of consumers and companies. As allegations of data mishandling fill headlines, privacy is now front and center on everyone’s minds. While data has been the lifeblood of innovation and economic growth, there has also been excessive data collection, lax security, and undisclosed sharing. Public opinion and new laws are starting to curtail some of this bad behavior – creating both compliance challenges and business/brand opportunities.
Respecting privacy is a balancing act between the companies collecting data and the consumers providing it. To earn and preserve (or in some cases regain) trust, companies must be transparent, fair, and accountable.
- “Meaningful transparency” is a bit elusive, but certainly requires more than just a “legally compliant”, lengthy privacy notice. Transparency requires being open and honest about what data is collected, why it’s needed, how it’s used, the benefits to consumers and businesses, data sharing/sale, and how data protected throughout its lifecycle.
- In turn, transparency drives fairness — the market (consumers, regulators, and plaintiffs’ lawyers) will judge if a company’s practices are appropriate. It has become increasingly apparent that consumers do care about privacy and are taking action to protect it (e.g., switching vendors, calling for legislative action, lodging complaints with regulators, initiating legal action, etc.) — making privacy both a compliance obligation and a business imperative.
- Accountability is about having the governance and controls in place to operationalize and demonstrate that the promises made about data processing activities are followed. Essentially, it’s making sure companies say what they do and do what they say (and no more).
While companies must respect and protect privacy, consumers also have an important role to play. There is no “one size fits all”. When it comes to sharing personal information, there’s a wide range in comfort level. Without being too paranoid, people must recognize the more they publish online, the more fodder is available for bad actors to exploit. Before we post things publicly, we need to think about both the intended use and how that same data may be misused (inadvertently or nefariously).
By Harvey Jang
Published with permission from blogs.cisco.com.