01:25 PM

What's On The Privacy Horizon

Some industry players share their predictions on upcoming privacy and security concerns with Parry Aftab.

Vinton Cerf, senior VP of technology strategy at MCI (and best known as the man who invented the Internet) sees individual privacy under siege. "I keep hoping that we will see some relief on the privacy front but the combination of the war on terrorism, Homeland Security, concerns over intellectual-property protection and abuse on the Internet (a determined MPAA and RIAA, inter alia), will likely continue to put individual privacy at substantial risk next year and in the years ahead." Vint also expects continuing tension and debate on the issues surrounding "digital certificates which verify identity, protection of individual privacy, and legitimate law-enforcement needs in 2004 and the remainder of the decade."

Tim Lordan, senior adviser for the Internet Caucus Advisory Committee, forecasts that spyware legislation will be introduced on Capitol Hill this year. He expects spammers to be sued under the CAN-SPAM law. Also on the top of Tim's privacy-forecast list are location privacy rules for wireless users and vigorous debates over renewal of law enforcement's electronic-eavesdropping powers under the USA Patriot Act.

Harriet Pearson, VP of human resources, systems group, and CPO at IBM, predicts that "in 2004, privacy is about implementation and execution. As a result of important legislative measures being enacted, organizations and business leaders will be spending more energy on assessing and meeting what is expected and required of them when it comes to privacy and security. Understanding how you collect, guard, use, and share data is crucial for business success." Few have Fran's experience and broad understanding of the issues. She understands the importance of privacy to trust and brand protection, which is reflected in everything she oversees. "Knowing where your information is flowing and how your information assets are managed is increasingly a measure of your own company's trustworthiness."

Zoe Strickland, CPO of the U.S. Postal Service, forecasts that "2004 will be another year of building and growth. Program efforts will focus on integration and compliance (e.g., privacy impact assessments, training, and communications). At the same time, CPOs will need to address evolving technology and business practices. Examples are intelligent products, data warehouses, CRM, privacy technologies, and authentication issues." Zoe's grasp of privacy issues is unique. The U.S. Postal Service has lots of personal information about us. Managing it requires a commitment to commercial privacy as well as governmental best practices.

John Richards is president of Consulting Services for Education LLC (www.cs4ed.com). John forecasts that we will be facing challenges when the federal emphasis on data mining is matched with the need to protect our children's personal information. "Vast amounts of structured information on individual children and their lives at school is capable of being collected. Now, we are moving closer and closer to really collecting this information. Making it a priority to keep this information secure and inaccessible to all who do not have the child's interest at heart is key to protecting our children."

Peter Cullen is Microsoft's new privacy strategist. He forecasts that "spyware will continue to threaten the privacy and overall computing experience of Internet users in 2004. Members of the software industry will be facing the challenge of protecting the privacy of their users." Peter also notes that "Microsoft will be focusing on tackling this issue on behalf of our customers through a combination of technical innovations, consumer education, and appropriate legislative, legal, and industry engagement to address this growing problem." That's good news for everyone.

Patrick Vande Walle, chairman of ISOC Luxembourg, has the same forecast I have heard from many outside of the United States. They fear the extraterritorial effects of U.S. privacy and security policies. Patrick doesn't believe that the fight against terrorism by the current U.S. administration will be beneficial for privacy, especially on the Internet. Patrick, as a technology policy expert, thinks that using data-mining technologies to determine if one has a terrorist profile also puts people's political opinions, sexual preferences, and other sensitive information at risk. As Patrick sees it, "In the end it may become a sort of institutionalized blackmail, like George Orwell and Aldous Huxley described in their books."

Robin Raskin is a technology consultant and editor in chief of a new publication for Gruner and Jahr's Family Circle that targets parents of teens and tweens. She was formerly editor-in-chief of Family PC magazine. Robin speaks from the consumer perspective when she forecasts that "privacy will continue to be one of the biggest issues terrifying consumers in 2004. Any consumer who doesn't use the basic arsenal of antivirus, personal firewall, pop-up blockers, and anti-spam is going to be miserable." But it's not all bad news, as Robin sees it. "The good news is that these technologies will continue to improve and will migrate into the ISP and operating system. And, as these technologies learn to amass data about violations and first signs of trouble more rapidly, we'll be able to do a lot to stem the tide of intruders."

Jules Polonetsky, VP of integrity assurance at AOL, forecasts that "corporate leaders charged with privacy compliance will start 2004 by double-checking on CAN-SPAM compliance." Jules was a top consumer-protection regulator before leaving government for DoubleClick to be chief privacy officer. The governmental, E-mail marketing, and now integrity-assurance roles give him a special perspective on the issues, and he advises that privacy compliance experts should "reach out this year to ensure partners have created new advertiser-specific unsubscribe processes where needed." Jules also says that privacy professionals will be "looking to the CAN-SPAM key issues left to FTC and FCC rule-making during the upcoming months."

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