Consortium to tackle privacy concerns about personalisation

Although most consumers are willing to share information in return for better online service, issues surrounding how that data is handled are still a point of contention.

"The concern a lot of people have is that often it's an all-or-nothing concept: you fill out one huge form to get access to a site," Abner Germanow, research manager for the Internet security program at IDC, commented. "A lot of the concern is about, ‘If I give you all this personal information about me, what do I get in return?' "Germanow believes users are more worried about what happens to information behind the scenes.

Such concerns have led to the establishment of the Personalization Consortium, a group of 26 companies which have banded together in an attempt to tackle some of the tricky privacy issues surrounding personalisation technology.

The group will act as a forum for the discussion of how e-businesses can use personalisation technology without compromising the privacy of consumers and businesses. Founding members include PricewaterhouseCoopers, DoubleClick and KPMG.

The consortium has created consumer privacy guidelines, will provide education, and also intends to develop guidelines for companies wishing to deploy personalisation technology as part of their marketing activities.

"One of our key issues is educating the public about what to expect in a more personalised world," Don Peppers, co-chair of the Personalization Consortium, said. "We think by putting these standards together, we'll have a vocabulary to speak with the public."

The consortium's consumer privacy guidelines - which include providing users fair access to their personal information, responsible liinking of online and offline information, and criteria for opt-in and opt-out privacy - will form the foundation for a privacy compliance program. Although the consortium advocates self-regulation of privacy, it will provide both self-assessment mechanisms and independent verification of privacy-policy adherence to consortium members.

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