Turning Privacy “Threats” Into Opportunities

Most companies regard online privacy warily, seeing only expensive disclosure requirements, constraints on their ability to collect information about their customers, and a potential source of legal liabilities. But companies should be turning personal data into an asset by giving it back to their customers in an enhanced form.

NEW YORK – It is a well-known – though questionable – truth in the online community that consumers won’t pay for privacy. Accordingly, most companies regard the entire issue warily, seeing only expensive disclosure requirements, constraints on their ability to collect information about their customers, and a potential source of legal liabilities.

So they consult lawyers and IT risk specialists to consider their options. They write lengthy disclosure statements that cover every possible use of data so that they cannot be sued. They then hand these statements to their marketing departments, who hide them behind little windows in small type.

In general, these companies see consumer data as something that they can use to target ads or offers, or perhaps that they can sell to third parties, but not as something that consumers themselves might want. Of course, this is not an entirely new idea, but most pundits on both sides – privacy advocates and marketers – don’t realize that rather than protecting consumers or hiding from them, companies should be bringing them into the game.

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