The Right to be Forgotten

| November 22, 2010

With the recent press over Facebook applications sharing of personal data, I thought it would be fun for my IT Strategy class to explore the double-edged sword of Internet security and privacy.  It’s a topic that directly affects them on a daily basis – whether or not they are aware of it.

I was pleasantly surprised by their interest level and decided to change my syllabus so we could spend part of the next several weeks discussing various dimensions of Internet security and privacy. We looked at Google and whether or not they present a risk to our privacy. At a student’s request, we watched the fantastic 2006 CNBC special, “Big Brother, Big Business.” We discussed electronic medical record systems (EMR).  And, so on.

During one of our recent discussions, I explored the growing “opt-in” vs. “opt-out” debate.  We reviewed current policy, the volume and value of the data that is tracked, and the overarching online marketing industry.  As part of the discussion, I asked, “Should websites be allowed to continue to employ ‘opt-out’ policies or should users have to ‘opt-in’ for their information to be tracked?”  In other words, should users have to opt-in to be tracked and directly marketed?

Following the class, one of my students sent me a link to a November 4, 2010 Wall Street Journal article: “EU Proposes New Plan For Online Privacy Rights.” The article discusses new privacy laws being proposed by the EU. Specifically, the proposed EU policy would “impart to users the power to tell websites to permanently delete personal data. The rules also mandate that users give explicit consent before companies can use or process their personal data in any way,” thus allowing users the right to be “forgotten.”

According to Viviane Reding, the EU commissioner for justice, “The protection of personal data is a fundamental right.”   Monique Goyens, Director of the European Consumers Organization adds, “The consumer’s right to privacy should not be undermined merely because it has become easier and more profitable to break it in the virtual world.”

In opposition, many of the EU’s online advertisers are quick to point out the proposed legislation would significantly “reduce the numbers of Internet users receiving targeted advertising and thereby, they argue, deprive them of free services.”  This online advertising sponsored free services industry is currently valued at an estimated EUR69 billion ($97 billion US).

Over the next few years, I expect we’re going to hear a lot more about this topic. However, as we’ve discussed in our ongoing classroom dialog, I believe our younger generations are growing up in a totally different world, one in which the concept of privacy is entirely different.  As such, I really wonder how much value the dialog will have in the long-run.  I predict future generations will have little to no concern over topics such as this or others that we currently view as “invasion of privacy.”  I think that frog is already beyond the boiling point.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Category: Education, Marketing/Branding Strategy, Technology Strategy

About Marc LeShay: I am a strategic consultant helping people find clarity in chaos View author profile.

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