Digital privacy is something industry must get right

In an article for this month’s Prospect magazine, media consultant Peter Bazalgette(of Big Brother fame) poses the question: who needs digital privacy? His piece actually discusses the importance of privacy to the growing online economy and – interestingly – seems to argue that respecting some relatively simple principles might actually enhance digital privacy without tarnishing the rich rewards (ie free content & services) that targeted advertising can deliver to users.

In response, Becky Hogge of the Open Rights Group, suggests that we all need digital privacy. I think Becky is right. Concerns about digital privacy will only continue to grow as we do and share more online. Industry (I’m leaving government – the biggestdata collectorof all – out of this debate for now!) needs to tread a careful line between delivering more customised advertising and protecting privacy. Many users are happy to ‘trade off’ some of theirpersonal data inreturn for better, more relevant and free services. Butthe bottom line is that digital privacy is a good thing: we need greater transparency in howonline datais collected and users need greater control over their online experience.

However, I don’t agree with Beckyabout the role of government here. I don’t believe it should step in and “fill the policy vacuum”. It’s looking at the Internet the wrong way. At the IAB we’re developing some self-regulatory principles – principles aimedat delivering that careful balance: more relevant advertising supporting the many free services and content we all enjoy whilst protecting user privacy. It also means a greater reach for advertisers and a better return for web publisers’ investment in this content, services and applications. It’s in all our interests that we get this balance right, but it’s this approach that has the most realistic chance of success.

PS Becky is featuring in a Palace of Westminster debate on online privacy (sponsored by the IAB) in the evening of Monday 17 November. For more details see here.