Consumer privacy and data protection

Tags

CI aims to ensure that consumers have meaningful control over how their personal information is used.

Rationale

Numerous privacy issues affect the consumer in the digital age. These include:

  • anonymity (the ability to go about your online activities without revealing your identity);
  • deep packet inspection (when service providers or governments snoop on your Internet usage to find out what you are doing);
  • data retention (the retention of records of your Internet usage by your service provider);
  • online fraud, and best practices in securing personal data against loss or misuse; and
  • online behavioural advertising.  

The last of these, online behavioural advertising, is the first area on which CI will be focussing in its work on online privacy and data protection.

It is well known, and accepted by most, that online platforms such as Facebook and Google are provided free to the end user, in exchange for advertising revenue. But some such platforms go further and allow their users' online behaviour to be tracked without their informed consent, for the purpose of creating an advertising campaign specifically targeted to them. As such consumers are being tagged, unknowingly, with stereotypes such as "shopaholic", "penny pincher", "lonely heart" and "hardcore gamer".  Most disconcerting is when this information is shared with other websites, creating the impression that the monitoring eyes of online marketers are following consumers everywhere.

Trafficking in the personal information that goes into these profiles is an industry in itself, and it is currently largely unregulated. To guide policymakers who are considering whether to regulate or to rely on voluntary industry standards, CI intends to take the lead in developing and communicating the global consumer movement's position on the practice of online behavioural advertising. One of the emerging mechanisms for tackling this problem may be a global standard called Do Not Track, which would provide a technical means of regulating online behavioural advertising. Further information about online behavioural advertising and the Do Not Track standard is available in a CI blog post.

Current activities

Previous activities

  • Privacy@net, an international comparative study of consumer privacy on the Internet, published in January 2001
  • A brief overview of the main issues surrounding online privacy is given in our publication Access to Knowledge: A Guide for Everyone, published in 2010 (pp.90-93).
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