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Miss Essay

2353 words - 10 pages

The Role and Importance of Organizational Accountability in Managing and Protecting Users’ Data

October 2010

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The Evolution of Privacy ...view middle of the document...

With the enormous growth in data flows in recent years, as well as new technologies and business models that use information in ways that no one could have anticipated three decades ago, these approaches are no longer sufficient for adequate privacy protection. Even the most well-informed consumers cannot be expected to understand and monitor all of the ways that their information might be collected, aggregated, analyzed, copied, and shared across a vast network of computer systems and online services. But privacy protections based on notice and consent impose exactly that burden. Meanwhile, the patchwork of local, regional, and national legal and regulatory frameworks has become increasingly difficult for organizations to comply with as ever-larger volumes of data move beyond geographic and industry boundaries. Proposals for making privacy and data protections more comprehensive have generally reflected one of two positions: that individual control should be increased or that government oversight should be strengthened through new laws or regulatory enforcement. A recent online debate on data privacy hosted by The Economist highlighted these two positions. Mark Rotenberg, president and executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, argued that “we need the government agencies charged with consumer protection, privacy protection and antitrust review to play a more active role on behalf of internet users.” Jim Harper, director of information policy studies at the Cato Institute, disagreed: “Government regulation will make consumers worse off than they could be. The better alternative is to get people educated and involved in their own privacy protection.”1 Both positions have merit: individual participation remains fundamental to safeguarding personal information, as do legal frameworks governing data collection, usage, and sharing. But a third crucial element is often overlooked: the role of organizations in responsibly managing personal data. An organization’s internal policies and management practices have the most significant impact on whether user data is well protected or potentially vulnerable to misuse. The difference often comes down to whether an organization treats personal information as something it “owns” and can therefore exploit as it sees fit, or whether it recognizes that the information is being entrusted to it by users. The former attitude may lead to

“Online privacy: This house believes that governments must do far more to protect online privacy.” The Economist, August 25, 2010. www.economist.com/debate/days/view/564. 

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The Role and Importance of Organizational Accountability in Managing and Protecting Users’ Data

short-term economic gains, but forward-thinking organizations understand the long-term value that comes from maintaining a high level of consumer trust. More broadly, strengthening public confidence in the privacy protections of websites, cloud services, and data storage systems...

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