US commentators turn up heat in online privacy debate
Privacy advocates have called for greater controls and more responsibility from internet companies that harvest consumer data amid continuing fears of how the information is used and abused.
The calls came at a US safety conference, but mirror similar concerns raised by European officials in the wake of several high profile privacy blunders from web giants Google and Facebook.
“Information is the currency of growth, but it’s also increasingly become the currency of crime,” Peter Cullen, chief privacy strategist for Microsoft, said at the Family Online Safety Institute’s annual conference.
Companies that make the bulk of their revenue in advertising have a very terrible tension between that economic incentive and your privacy interests
“People have very high expectations when it comes to companies in terms of how they collect, use, store and most importantly protect their information.”
Companies must hold themselves to higher standards when handling consumers’ personal information and invest more in internal structures to ensure privacy, he added.
Michael Fertik, founder of the online reputation-management company ReputationDefender, called for US regulations that mandate opt-in defaults to give consumers greater control of their digital dossiers.
“It’s remarkable how deep the data sets are about each of us, and it’s disturbing,” Fertik said.
Companies such as Google, Yahoo, Facebook and Microsoft collect personal data that is often used in advertising or passed on to third parties without users’ knowledge.
Fertik suggested limits on how long companies could keep personal data on consumers, warning that over time the data could be used beyond advertising, such as assessing health care premiums.
“Companies that make the bulk of their revenue in advertising have a very terrible tension between that economic incentive and your privacy interests,” said Fertik.