Privacy and Personalization

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Reaction to the FTC Staff Report: Self-Regulatory Principles for Online Behavioral Advertising

Industry has been left with a very narrow window to prove that they can offer users both privacy and personalization. The guidelines proposed are both technically feasible and business practical, but do require businesses to do more to ensure that consumers are equal partners in decisions about use of their data. The Commission has sent a clear message that a low bar of “do no harm” isn’t acceptable for online privacy and that transparency and user control are essential features for any company using data in a robust way.

Many of the key points raised by the Commission are already being implemented by leading companies who recognize that being more upfront with consumers is good business. If data is being used to benefit users by improving their experience, why not let them know, instead of treating it as a legal disclosure in a policy? And if a user’s searches, web sites visited, age, income range, sex, and social networking activity are being used to determine how they are treated online, it behooves businesses to recognize the significance of the digital persona that has been created – even if a name isn’t attached to the profile.

The FTC proposal takes a very pragmatic approach at a time of economic uncertainty and changing technologies in that they press business to make serious privacy advances, without breaking any business models.