Privacy is a new business battleground

Privacy is a new business battleground

Privacy is becoming a competitive advantage for business as well as a big business. At a minimum, talking about privacy is a competitive advantage. Only time will tell if the attention that businesses are paying to privacy is more than just lip service to avoid regulatory scrutiny. The message for content producers is to be aware that now, more than ever, people are keenly aware of how you’re handling their personal information and data. People are especially passionate about the sale of their private and  personal information.

The battle over privacy has been white hot among browser and email providers. Microsoft is has waged war against Google in its Scroogled campaign. If you’ve seen any of the advertising out there you’re aware that Microsoft is going all out against Google’s practice of analyzing your email and search content to target ads. There were reports that the campaign was about to end. But that’s apparently not the case. Here’s what Microsoft had to say:

“Scroogled will go on as long as Google keeps Scroogling people. We know Google doesn’t like it when the facts come out. Chapter two of the consumer education campaign has shown people care about their privacy. More than 3.5 million people visited, and nearly 115,000 people signed a petition asking Google to stop going through their Gmail. Stay tuned for the next chapter.”

Mozilla, the creator of the Firefox browser, is trying to cut right through the privacy debate. It’s saying that it will allow its users to disable third party tracking software entirely. Yet, according to NetworkedWorld’s Scott Bradner the “Do Not Track” offerings are not necessarily as clear cut as they might seem: “[A] number of big ad companies maintained that “do not track” actually meant “track but do not use the information to serve ads.” A strange way to read the English language.” It’s also a touchy issue for Facebook which is figuring out how to handle its “Like” button that is plugged into literally millions of websites.

There are also a number of companies in the privacy market that are selling encryption tools that enable their users to retain some measure of anonymity or privacy in social media. Boston-based Abine, for example, enables users to create a single user name and password. It then creates automatically creates a proxy for every social media or commerce site that you visit. You don’t have to remember numerous log-ins and passwords. Abine does it for you off a single account that you create with the company. Another company, Wave Systems, has created a system called Scrambls that encrypts individual emails or social media posts. You get to choose who unlocks it.

The interest in privacy has been building for sometime. It’s now a more popular topic than ever thanks to privacy breaches, tactical missteps by companies like Facebook, and well publicized hacks by China. It’s also a high stakes game, with billions of dollars to be lost by careless (or sometimes calculated) moves. Time will tell if there are millions to be made in this emerging market.

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