Locking Your Door

There are many homes in the town where I live that aren’t locked up when nobody is home.

English: A candidate icon for Portal:Computer ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While in some ways it’s a nice relic of a time and society long gone, I’ve always wondered how people were able to file insurance claims or police reports if they got robbed. After all, they did nothing to protect their privacy other than trusting in the good will of the surrounding community.
Unfortunately, the world out there contains a fair number of evil-doers, and that includes the digital world of the web. Most of us know that, I’m afraid, but I’ve never really been sure how many of us take action to prevent those bad guys from entering our digital homes. Oh sure, maybe we use the pre-installed anti-virus stuff (hopefully with up to the minute virus definitions) but how many people are being proactive about keeping their data doors locked?
The folks from Microsoft released a study yesterday and the answer was surprising, at least to me. You can read the executive summary of and view a slide show about the findings here.  The big ones:

  • Forty-five percent said they feel they have little or no control over the personal information companies gather about them while they are browsing the Web or using online services, such as photo- sharing, travel or gaming.
  • Forty percent said they feel they ”mostly” or “totally understand” how to protect their online privacy.
  • An equal number of people (39 percent) said they are turning to friends and family, as well as privacy statements, as their top source for privacy information.
  • Almost a third of those surveyed (32 percent) said they always consider a company’s privacy reputation, track records, and policies when choosing which websites to visit or services to use.

OK, a lot of people get that they’re being tracked and not always for benign purposes, so surprisingly (to me, at lesast) they’re taking action. When asked what, if any, actions respondents had taken to protect the privacy of their online data, the vast majority (85%) report that they had actively taken steps. The most common action reported was the deletion of cookies that may be used to record and track online behavior.

I think this is good news –  locked doors keep the crime rate in our little digital town down.  Of course, it also means that any of us who want to be invited in to consumers’ cookie caches need to play nice.  That means have a clear privacy policy, explain how and if we’re using the data, and make sure that users read and understand what we’re doing.  Otherwise, we’ll have to break in to steal that information, and I think we all know where that can land us.  Regulatory bodies worldwide are already considering harsh and cumbersome rules and we know that they’ll probably get something wrong.  It’s on the industry to get ahead of this and to behave, encouraging people to take charge – lock their doors – and make it simple to do so.

Are you locking your data door?  Who are you letting in and why?

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Filed under digital media, Helpful Hints

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