Privacy, Transparency and Money

One of the much-heralded benefits of the Internet is our access to information. We flit about the web… reading, buying, engaging, and more. Meanwhile all of this activity leaves behind e-footprints for the byte-detectives to scrutinize and utilize in various fashion. And when it gets to this point of the conversation, fairly predictably the discussion turns to the subject of right to privacy in the wired world.

We’ve heard this general debate many times. Some wonder what’s being done with all the information that’s being accumulated in our digital wake, and question whether it’s intrusive. But when some of the attributes are mentioned, there’s pause… might this make our Internet experience more productive and useful when search results, advertising and more are tailored to our needs and patterns and geography? And others even scoff at those who might actually believe there is any semblance of privacy online; of course they’re mining your data, so be aware of it and act accordingly if you’re overly concerned about it.

At the same time we gnash teeth over privacy, we praise the Internet’s transparency. In many cases this enhances credibility, as the web allows us to find facts with relative ease, and reputable sites and writers provide links to bolster their reputation for accuracy. Possibly the best example of the importance of transparency is government. We demand to know that those who work for the public are doing so in a forthright manner; we want access to public documents, including e-mails in certain cases. The aspects of the web that some say are intrusive, actually come in handy in monitoring our elected officials and others working within and for the government.

Bringing this full circle, though, the companies bringing us this technology and information are businesses after all. They have to find ways to make money from their efforts, and many at the moment are struggling to monetize their content and creations. It just so happens that some of the value these companies have derived from their sweat and investment is the data and information they’ve accumulated. It only makes sense, then, that businesses will attempt to leverage this asset in the quest for revenue. Which, of course, begs the question: do we really have a problem with the businesses that provide our positive online experiences making money off of our personal information? And will we sacrifice some privacy for the conveniences of the web?

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