Online Data Collection and Privacy

 

Today, online tracking technologies are so sophisticated that the amount of information they collect could be considered Orwellian.  Numerous amounts of data is collected on an individual’s browsing habits.  This may be combined with other information gathered from public records or social networks sites to build customer profiles.  A great blog article provides more information: ‘Online Privacy Concerns with Data Collection’.

There may be legitimate reasons for companies wanting to collect data.  They want to gain a competitive edge and being able to use this customer information for selective purposes is to a degree not surprising.  However, the key issue is that most consumers on the Internet may have no idea what information is being collected or by whom and whether this is passed on to third parties.

The debate of online data collection versus privacy concerns is a fairly complex one.  The technology is here to stay and is part of business innovation.  Users have embraced and adopted the technology openly and positively.  However, is the balance geared towards the benefit of businesses?  Due to the sophistication of the technology and the introduction of location-based information, companies are able to fairly accurately pinpoint a user’s real time physical location.  Historically, identifiable information was considered protected information when it came to privacy.

There are some individuals who don’t care but for those that do they need to be able to have choices.  Individuals need to have a say in when sensitive and personally identifiable information is collected and shared.  Policy makers need to be active in this debate to allow consumers more control over their data particularly data that makes them identifiable.

Consumers need to have the option to withdraw if they do not what to participate in online data collection, for example similar to the ‘do not call register’.  The privacy statements, which do exist, are usually hidden away and if individuals do bother reading them they are far too complicated.  There needs to be visible and transparent statements if online data is being collected, why it is being collected and what will be done with it.  This way consumers can make an informed choice whether they want to take part or not.  A rebalance with individuals having more say in what is collected about them needs to occur.

I would be interested to hear what you think.

Are you concerned that your information is being tracked or is this the reality of the current world we now live in?

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About the Author

Anna Cairo
Anna Cairo is the founder and Director of Anna Cairo Consulting, a boutique communications consultancy with its core focus on the disruptive social media and communication space. She has a passion for educating businesses, executives and leaders about the fragmentation of communication and its impacts on business as well as social media its risks and opportunities in the workplace.

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