Monday, September 03, 2007

Privacy Market?

Wired has published this story concerning the privacy market. Putting on my "privacy hat" the idea of a "Privacy Market" is disagreeable - this is particularly the case when personal information is viewed as a commodity - than a human right as such (see Art. 1 of the Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC). This is not to imply that privacy is absolute (as can be seen in the exemptions under the European Data Protection Directive and the UK Data Protection Act 1998 and instances where we need to give our personal details), but once we start thinking of an individual's identity as something that can be traded commercially (property right), then this is a slippery slope into conceding that personal information is nothing more than monetary value.

"The Privacy Market Has Many Sellers, but Few Buyers"

By Dan Tynan 09.03.07 2:00 AM

Privacy is fast becoming the trendy concept in online marketing. An increasing number of companies are flaunting the steps they've taken to protect the privacy of their customers. But studies suggest consumers won't pay even 25 cents to protect their data. In one week in July, unveiled AskEraser, a tool that will allow users to obliterate their search histories; Microsoft announced enhanced privacy controls for its Windows Live service; and Google and Yahoo shrank the amount of time they retained IP addresses and search logs, reducing the ability of government agencies to subpoena such data. Startups are aiming to carve out a piece of the privacy market. ReputationDefender, which allows individuals to manage what people say about them online, launched the beta version of a new subscription service on Sep. 1. Its service, called MyPrivacy, lets users control how their personal data is brokered across the web (the service was announced last fall but is only now publicly available). Suddenly it seems that "privacy is the new black," as Duncan Riley wrote at TechCrunch. For $5 a month, MyPrivacy subscribers can locate their records in people-search directories, such as Yahoo People Search,,, and Netscape White Pages, and click a button to remove their listing. As long as you keep paying, the service will keep you unlisted when these information brokers refresh their directories. MyPrivacy will feature at least 10 major consumer databases at launch and expects to have 75 such information brokers signed on by year end.

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