Microsoft, allies try to head off privacy protection, prefer voluntary guidelines

Voluntary guidelines, self regulation work better than real rules, study, consortium claim


Savvy companies must have shifted en masse toward policies that protect the privacy and loyalty of customers rather than risk losing them.


  • "A majority of people (57%) report either no change or a decline in the security of their personal information in the last five years," Pedersen wrote about the results.
  • "While 92% of people say security is important to them in when doing business with the financial sectors, just 69% trust the industry to protect their personal information – trust lags by 23 points."
  • "In online retail…while security is important to 84% of those doing business with online retailers, just 33% trust them to protect personal information – a 51 point gap."


So either…

  • … the connection between profits and privacy isn't as obvious to decision-makers at online service companies as it is to those reading customer surveys;
  • or customers aren't as likely as the survey implies to abandon vendors that abuse their privacy;
  • or companies figure the cost of being known as a weasel is less important than the benefit of chasing every scrap of inappropriate information on customers like an obsessive/compulsive spy in a secret-document warehouse.


So the Edelman study – like studies from EFF, EPIC and any number of other analyst, vendor or consulting companies who have studied consumer attitudes toward privacy in the past – found that most consumers are mad about abuses of their personal data, but aren't willing enough to change their buying habits to persuade most online companies to shape up the way they treat private information.

In fact, new, more intrusive policies from Google, Twitter and others make it looks as if even members of the OTA have decided it's easier to gloss over privacy issues by giving customers minimal control over some aspects of their private data than to give up the look into customers' souls they get from gathering and exploiting every bit of it they can get.

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