Privacy More Than Mere Contractual Fairness: Bernier
February 28, 2013 | Carly Lewis | Comments
Privacy is everyone’s responsibility – both consumers’ and companies’ – according to Canada’s assistant privacy commissioner who addressed attendees at Marketing‘s Understanding Privacy in 2013 conference Thursday morning.
Chantal Bernier, assistant commissioner since 2008, said while too many companies are complacent when it comes to privacy, consumers should also be alert and know that the internet is not a secure or intimate setting. “People are completely mistaken about their sense of exposure or intimacy on the internet,” she said. “The complexity of the internet really overwhelms them.”
Bernier said that conversations surrounding online privacy are a relatively new phenomenon, and that regulations and mentalities need to adjust.
“When you change the platform for personal information, clearly the safeguards must change,” she said, noting that the internet has drastically affected business models and methods of information gathering so much that the concept of “personal information” needs to be redefined. (For example, it was recently decided that IP addresses count as personal information, because they can potentially identify an individual person.)
She later said that privacy is more than “mere contractual fairness,” and insisted it is essential to good communications and marketing ethics. Bernier cited a survey that showed 46% of Canadians had experienced a privacy breach of some kind.
So how can marketers obtain consumer information without violating privacy and getting tangled up in breaches?
According to Bernier, informed consent (telling the consumer why they’re disclosing information and where the information will go), proportionate return (giving the consumer whatever service they agreed to when providing information), transparency and keeping shared information secure are chief among marketer’s considerations.
“Advertisers need to be aware of the cognitive level of the user to ensure meaningful consent,” she added. Mobile app developers, too, should abide by good privacy practices, but consumers must realize privacy standards aren’t always as highly regarded as they’d like.
Another statistic cited by Bernier revealed just how urgent a cause online privacy has become: 71% of Canadians consider it among the country’s most important issues. Bernier offered a nugget of wisdom to the marketers in the room based on this growing panic: “Privacy,” she said, “is a competitive advantage.”
Bernier was followed by a number of other sessions covering Canadian consumer attitudes around privacy and marketing, new anti-spam rules and the soon-to-roll-out guidelines for online behavioural advertising.
Is privacy really a competitive advantage? Post your thoughts in our comment section.