Thursday, April 17, 2008

Privacy on parade

Concerns over privacy issues about individuals’ online habits are being voiced with increasing regularity on both sides of the pond.

Today, NYC-based MediaPost has unearthed what it claims is the first law-suit to come out of Facebook’s already controversial Beacon programme.

A lady in Dallas County has objected to details about the DVDs she bought and hired from Blockbuster appearing on her Facebook profile. Her federal suit is against Blockbuster for sharing the details with Facebook, rather than Facebook. Apparently, there are specific laws to protect the privacy of US citizens’ video-hiring habits.

Admittedly, I’d be a bit fed up if my profile revealed I’d been buying DVDs on topics which I claimed to have no interest in, such as golf, S-Club 7, or When Household Appliances Go Bad. But I’m not sure whether being fed up would be a strong enough basis on which to launch a law-suit.

Harris Interactive issued some research earlier this month which looked at the privacy concerns of 2500+ US internet users. About 60% were uncomfortable with personalization. As we get older, our concerns increases, it appears.

Most of these law-suits come and go, but at some stage, somewhere, one will stick. And when one does, will the e-commerce industry be buying up instructional DVDs on how to rebuild the ediface?

Martin Cowen, chief writer, Travolution

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