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Today, more people than ever are using the internet to shop, chat and network. Personal data obtained online is collated and used to target digital advertising. This means consumers receive more relevant advertising and advertisers are rewarded with higher response rates.

Collection and use of personal data has become a controversial issue (see the essay on Case study: Privacy and data protection at Safecount). Consumer trust is essential to WPP’s business and that of our clients. We need to ensure that personal data is handled by all our agencies in a manner that is acceptable to consumers and respects their privacy.

Privacy is particularly relevant for our digital agencies and our market research and direct marketing companies which collect data on consumers to study lifestyles and purchasing habits and to target direct marketing campaigns.

During 2007 WPP set up a working group to review the significance of privacy for our companies and to identify any potential risks or opportunities in our current approach.

The Group is undertaking a fact-finding exercise to assess current privacy practices at WPP digital companies. As a first step, a privacy questionnaire has been completed by 14 companies. This has highlighted a number of differences between the approaches taken by our agencies and helped us identify areas for improvement.

In the longer term the Group aims to develop a proactive, coordinated data and privacy strategy for WPP, including a monitoring solution.

We are developing a Group privacy policy that will help us maintain consumer trust by applying two principles:

  1. Transparency – being clear and open about which data is collected, how it is stored and how it is used.
  2. Consumer control – giving consumers choice about how their data is collected and used.