The Evolution of Privacy

Today is International Data Privacy Day 2010, recognizing signing of the  first international convention for privacy. Many groups around the world are celebrating this day and it is being recognized by some of the largest companies. Google has highlighted the ways it uses some of the personal data it collects about you to make your life easier, and they have published their five guiding Privacy Principles:

  1. Use information to provide our users with valuable products and services.
  2. Develop products that reflect strong privacy standards and practices.
  3. Make the collection of personal information transparent.
  4. Give users meaningful choices to protect their privacy.
  5. Be a responsible steward of the information we hold.

As discussed in my previous post “Privacy or Positioning?”, and reemphasized by Google here in their third principle – there is a wave of activity in making the collection of information transparent, and exposing tools to allow user control of the data that is collected.  Most privacy policies assert the ownership of the data as that of the enterprise, as the collector.  The reality of course is that while the transactional data captured is owned by the enterprise what that data means about that user can only belong to the user. 

At Atigeo our technology solutions are designed to:

  • Allow enterprises to become custodians and stewards of data under the ownership and control of users. 
  • Allow enterprises and users to leverage their data while increasing privacy through a transition from the “ option of privacy” to a notion of “privacy by design” and “shipping privacy by default” – both concepts that Facebook so flagrantly ignored in its privacy settings changes.

As someone who builds technologies that derive knowledge from data for a living, I can tell you why Facebook made their decision.  Facebook’s revenue depends on their ability to extract and understand broadly not only the connectivity of individuals, but also all of the content that they generate. Facebook content provides rich semantic cues that define a person or a particular social group, for example, what they’re interested in, what is strongly in-context for them at the present time, and the themes of their life/lives.  There is unfathomable value derived from syndicated access to this knowledge, for example via Facebook connect.

Until recently, the technologies acting on these types of information sets focused on simply “attribute match”- style queries, against the transactional data. This is why the data itself rather than the knowledge is commonly shared.  At Atigeo, we have been working on the capability to enable the enterprise to make use of the knowledge a user’s data represents without needing to know the exact details of where it was derived from, such as transactional data.  “You don’t need to know the explicit data surrounding X to understand that action Y might be of interest to me right now. You just need the ability to leverage the knowledge to offer me Y ”.

Here’s hoping for some evolutionary jumps rather than random mutations! 

Happy Data Privacy Day.

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