Does Privacy Matter? - InformationWeek

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8/28/2007
07:03 PM
Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn
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Does Privacy Matter?

Donald Leka, CEO of New York-based TransMedia, maker of the Glide online media sharing and storage service, believes consumers care about privacy.

Donald Leka, CEO of New York-based TransMedia, maker of the Glide online media sharing and storage service, believes consumers care about privacy.In conjunction with the release of Glide Write 2.0, the latest version of TransMedia's online word processing program, Leka is making a pledge to protect user privacy, something he believes companies like Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and their ilk don't really care about.

Leka characterizes the practices of the Internet personal advertising complex as "big brother on a massive scale."

"Many consumers spend hours everyday entering personal data into Web services at home and at work and most have no idea how their personal information makes money for online services," said Leka in a statement announcing what his company is calling the Glide User's Bill of Rights. "The online advertising business model is being taken to new extremes and the right to privacy lies in the balance."

Leka's point is that free online services come at a cost. As he sees it, consumers are better served by a more straightforward subscription fee.

Leka told me he believes his message will get a better reception in Europe than in the U.S. and I'm afraid he's right. For some reason, Europeans care more about privacy than people in the U.S. Maybe it's that Europeans recall what can be done with lists of people, police, trains and gas chambers. Maybe it's something else.

Whatever the reason is, discounts play better in the U.S. than privacy. Most people in the U.S. appear to be willing to give up personal information for free or discount goods or services. Not everyone feels that way, but that seems to be the view of the majority.

It's enough to make me wonder about the real price of free services. Was Alfred E. Neuman right to ask, "What, me worry?"

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