Recently I’ve been taking a micro look at the exchange of online tools for personal information. The example was the personal information I signed over in exchange for the mobile Twitter application TweetCaster.
John Battelle took a macro look at online trust recently on his blog, and it’s a very good read. He uses the biannual Google Transparency report to make the point that as our identities move from offline to online, government can no longer confirm our identity or protect our privacy. That becomes the role of the consumer technology companies like Google, Yahoo and Facebook.
Google’s Transparency report is a comprehensive list of all requests the company has received to change search results from individuals, companies and governments. Since search results play a big role in how people perceive online reality, this report is a promising act of accountability on behalf of Google.
No other company currently does anything like this. I think more should. Consumers need to take more personal ownership of their online identities, and companies should be transparent about how they are storing and using personally identifiable information.
More transparency supports informed consent and it can ease consumer fears about moving more elements of their daily lives online. Transparency can also help identify the proper regulatory structure for the brave new world being built around us.
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