An ode to consumer privacy

Last updated: 20 March 2014

Do you use your mobile phone purely for calling? If so, you’re missing out! The new mobile era has brought us many possibilities, given us more flexibility and shaped our daily habits with the noble mission of making our life easier.

However, everything comes at a price. While mobile devices nowadays are enabled to allow us to browse the Internet, send emails, chat, etc, more and more of our personal information is being transmitted every day. And, with the introduction of digital mobile wallets, consumers are becoming even more aware of the amount of data being shared, meaning they are increasingly cautious about the future of their personal information.

Fortunately, thanks to legal safeguards, companies are not left completely in charge of our data privacy. Customer privacy regulations are still playing catch up with the digital evolution and beginning to introduce new policies and guidelines for companies.

America’s Federal Trade Commission and the nation’s chief privacy agency recently issued a report with suggestions for industry players on how to inform consumers about their data practices. These recommendations are aimed at mobile platforms, application developers, advertising networks and analytics companies, as well as app developer trade associations. Most of the recommendations involve making sure that consumers get timely, easy-to-understand disclosures about what data they collect and how the data is used.

Europe is catching up too. The Hunton & Williams law firm announced in February that the European Commission, together with the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, launched their cybersecurity strategy for the European Union. The EU press release on this highlights key advances included in the strategy. For example, better protection of citizens from online crimes, the establishment of a European Cybercrime Center, introducing legislation on attacks against information systems and the launch of a Global Alliance to fight child sexual abuse online.

This has even reached as far as Asia. The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC) in China introduced resolution to strengthen and protect information on the Internet back in December too. According to Hunton & Williams, the regulations demand significant and far-reaching requirements applicable to the collection and processing of electronic personal information via the Internet.

Moreover, Jim Halpert, partner in the Communications, E-Commerce and Privacy practice of DLA Piper noticed two years ago that the Indian policy on protection of personal information only regulated data security and hacking, but not data privacy. Today, protection of personal information in India is regulated with data privacy rules issued by the Indian Ministry of Communications and Information Technology. Current regulations cover standard notice and opt-out, access and correction, data security requirements.

So, as we can see, legal systems in almost every region are trying to adapt to the new digital environment, issuing regulations and policies to protect data and ensure consumer privacy. The same goes for mobile operators and brands which should be respecting our concerns. One way of doing this is to engage in permission-based marketing approaches. Only then can we decide whether we wish to share our private data or not.

The good thing about all this is that new business practices are emerging, whereby being respectful and reliable – and ultimately putting the consumer first – are among the core values.