Friday, 31 May 2013

What is the economic component of privacy to the end-user?

Privacy is framed in terms of ethical, moral and economic arguments. Certainly most research supports that nearly everyone is worried about their on-line privacy, yet rarely if at all we've seen a company actually fail because of their attitude to privacy. Some companies have changed their ways admittedly, but the change has been minimal and after the initial fuss it is very much business as usual. Privacy seems not to be much of an ethical or moral issue to most people but rather an emotional one.

Given the above we don't see much of an economic argument either, at least not from the end-user side of things. The economic argument for using certain social networking services, sharing personal photographs, details etc seems to outweigh the potential disadvantages - which tend to be worries about to where data is being shared or sold, or who might be viewing that material.

Privacy is rarely framed in terms of an economic argument beyond the "data mart" idea but rather in emotional terms: nothing to hide, nothing to fear perhaps? Privacy is lost in the security and liberty arguments too being equated with concealment and freedom. Consider the argument put forward by US congressman Paul Rand [1] on privacy.

Laws are changing to emphasise the economic argument to the companies that provide internet services and there we do see a strong argument for a more robust privacy function. Whether we on the business side of things are addressing privacy in the right manner and in the same economic terms as our end-users is another matter altogether. For companies the economic argument for developing and adhering to an information safety (privacy) is very clear. We have a good economic argument for treating end-users' information with respect...whatever that is.

For the end-user the economic argument is unclear. Why should an end-user choose one service provider over another? What are the terms of this economic argument and have they even been defined at all?


[1]  Senator Rand Paul Talks Tech, Civil Liberties, and Keeping the Government Out of Your Email. By Spencer Ackerman 05.30.13 Wired

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