JWT White Paper
Privacy in the Digital Age
Citizens of modern societies live in a world of digital data, generating an information trail as they e-mail, shop with loyalty cards, surf the Web, make wireless calls. In response, cautious consumers, watchdog groups and governing bodies are raising alarms about the Orwellian implications. As technology gets ever more powerful and sophisticated, the issue of digital privacy is rapidly coming to the fore.
- What are the privacy issues that are top of mind when discussing search engines, ISPs and Web giants like AOL and Microsoft? What steps are governments taking to regulate and control their activities?
- Just how concerned are consumers about their digital privacy? Does "radical transparency" equate to more lax attitudes toward privacy in general?
- What new technologies are likely to raise additional privacy concerns?
- How can marketers best allay privacy concerns among their customers?
Online, we have little control over all kinds of information we might prefer the public not to have at their fingertips - from what our home looks like (see Google Street View) to our age (see Spock.com). The Internet also makes it easy to embarrass, shame and hurt people, and this seems to be a growing phenomenon.
In the past year, acquisitions have concentrated digital data into the hands of the Web giants. In addition, Internet service providers have started partnering with companies like Phorm and NebuAd in order to record and analyze customer activity. Ad targeting is hot, and the race is on to see who can nail it. To calm fears about privacy implications and to avoid regulation, many of the big players are following voluntary guidelines and initiating consumer education efforts.
A majority of consumers are not comfortable being tracked online, although not many take active steps to protect their privacy. This may change as more people become better informed about online privacy issues. In the U.S., the dominant attitude is that companies should self-regulate and that consumers in turn should be allowed to opt out; the Federal Trade Commission recently proposed voluntary guidelines covering behavioral targeting.
Europe is much less laissez-faire: the prevailing standard is generally "opt in" for consumers, and the EU has been researching legislative and technological solutions for enhancing digital privacy. As privacy becomes an increasingly high-profile issue, it will be imperative for marketers and tech giants to become more transparent and to put maximum control into consumers' hands, easing the "creepy" factor and enhancing choice.
Download the full report