Tags: Experts | Warn | You | Guard | Privacy

Experts Warn You to Guard Privacy

Tuesday, 22 May 2001 12:00 AM

Public discussions on Internet privacy shouldn't even bother with cookies and credit cards, because they're not really privacy issues, said Eric Brewer, co-founder and chief scientist at Inktomi, a maker of search engine software in Foster City, Calif.

"Credit cards are fine. You can spend them online all you want," Brewer said. "It has almost nothing to do with security or privacy, because:

Brewer said the legislative focus on cookies (small text files that Web sites put on your computer) was "sad," because they do not reveal information, but simply allow companies to track data consumers have already given out.

Privacy policy should focus on important information, such as medical privacy, financial matters and Social Security numbers, Brewer said.

"What you should realize is privacy is forever," he said. "Even the intent to have something private is permanent. You might change your mind later, but unless you tell me otherwise, I should assume you want it private forever."

That means companies have to understand privacy policies are absolute things, not subject to change due to bankruptcies, mergers or personnel changes, Brewer said. Most companies, however, include clauses allowing such changes, so consumers should have the right to delete their information from a company's database if they decide to end the business relationship.

Because legislative approaches to the problem can become outdated, policy-makers should take a look at judicial solutions to get the industry to pay attention, Brewer said.

"That would lead to a policy that calls for multiple damages for unauthorized release of data," he said. "Other things to flag would be failure to delete a person's data and actual loss of private of data, which says you're liable if your security isn't good enough to keep private data private."

Because Web consumers are leaving such a "digital wake" of information, companies must understand how that information is used, said Austin Hill, co-founder and executive vice president of ZeroKnowledge, a Montreal company that provides anonymous e-mail and Web surfing.

With multiple databases, and users and applications all accessing the data, Hill said, an overarching control scheme is needed - privacy rights management is the term Hill prefers. PRM would allow a company to accept an individual's privacy preferences once and apply them across all its operations.

Hill said he expects insurance companies to start advertising their privacy improvements soon, part of a worldwide movement to increase brand awareness and trust using this very public issue.

Copyright 2001 by United Press International.

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Public discussions on Internet privacy shouldn't even bother with cookies and credit cards, because they're not really privacy issues, said Eric Brewer, co-founder and chief scientist at Inktomi, a maker of search engine software in Foster City, Calif. Credit cards are...
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Tuesday, 22 May 2001 12:00 AM
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