Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Protect Your Customers’ Privacy Ethically, Not Legally

Following the recent posts about privacy and web analytics, it appears that ChangeThis was at it too with a new Manifesto entitled "The Seven Principles of Privacy: Protect Your Customers’ Privacy Ethically, Not Legally", authored by David Holtzman. I guess this will be covered in depth in his book "Privacy Lost: How Technology is Endangering Your Privacy". The manifesto highlights 7 ethical principles which might be worth looking at:
  1. Don't spy on me because you can
  2. Thou shall erase my data: Don’t keep data any longer than you have to; you can’t give up what you don’t have.
  3. Keep my information to thyself: Require customers to opt-in for each additional use of their information.
  4. Don't judge me: Never create a profiling system that labels your customers in a way that you’d have trouble justifying if they ever saw their file, because some day they probably will.
  5. Protect my data like it were thine own: Provide the best computer security that you can afford.
  6. I am who I say I am: Let your customers pick their own demographics.
  7. Don't humiliate me: Avoid embarrassing your customers by mishandling their data.
Some of those points really focus on corporate employees, while others could be applied to anonymous data, and some are really closely tied to personal information management.

I really like the conclusion of the manifesto:
Laws make poor privacy guidelines. Business people need better directions when navigating their customer relationships than simply to be told to steer around legal roadblocks. Boardroom discussions should be less about what is permissible and prohibited and more about what is positive and proactive—in short, what is ethical. The question should not be “Can we do this?” but “Should we do this?” “What’s the right thing to do?” If your company handles the electronic representation of the customer the way that they’d deal with them if they were standing face-to-face, you’ll do fine.
It is more a general view on privacy and anonymity not specific to web analytics, however, there are some good tidbits in the complete article (plus, the ChangeThis format is fantastic, check it out if you never had the chance before!).