Assessing Privacy Performance In 2001

Privacy consultant Larry Ponemon gives his thumb's up--and down--on privacy developments.

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

December 7, 2001

2 Min Read

The year 2001 has been odd in how many assumptions were turned on their head in just 12 months. At the dawn of the year, for instance, privacy concerns appeared likely to significantly remake business and government practices. But in the twilight of 2001, privacy has become a more readily bartered item. With that as background, Larry Ponemon, CEO of consulting firm Privacy Council, has come out with his list of the year's privacy winners and losers.

Among the winners, according the privacy advocate: Internet service provider Earthlink, for making privacy one of its differentiating features; and Privacy Rights Now, a grassroots effort by Ralph Nader to teach consumers how to opt out of data sharing by banks and credit companies. It's a big concern, says Ponemon: "There's no process to determine good-faith compliance. The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act gives too much wiggle room for companies."

Also on the winners' list: Microsoft's version of P3P made the list in large measure because the version can work with the Internet Explorer 6 browser--which now ships with XP. Right now, 1.5 million users have P3P tokens on their browser--and that figure is expected to hit 35 million in the next three months.

Ponemon singled out DoubleClick Inc. for what he said was a turnaround on privacy policies. "It recognized that its whole business model was in jeopardy because of consumer privacy concerns," he says. The company, according to Ponemon, also was among the first ad-server companies to embrace P3P. (InformationWeek contracts with DoubleClick to distribute its E-mail newsletters.)

Rounding out the winners' list: chief privacy officers, a role which, while not omnipresent, is seen as having come of age this year.

Among Ponemon losers: the American public, due to new government policies that curtail privacy protections; and the Federal Trade Commission for its current "no new privacy regulations" policy. While the intent of the FTC is to focus on more enforcement, says Ponemon, "many people in the business community misread this position as a softening on privacy."

Then there were anonymizers, such as SafeWeb and Zero Knowledge, which let people traverse the Web without being tracked. People apparently aren't ready to pay for them, and the companies are no longer ready to shell out tens of thousands of dollars each month to offer the free service. The fate of anonymizers will enter the new year undecided.

Never Miss a Beat: Get a snapshot of the issues affecting the IT industry straight to your inbox.

You May Also Like

More Insights