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Issue

Consumer Protection

Corporations are collecting unprecedented levels of personal information on consumers – companies now know more about their customers than governments could ever dream of knowing about their citizens.

Companies that collect and sell personal information make up one of the most lucrative industries in the world, and marketplace dynamics pose serious threats to consumer privacy. There have been several recent cases of 'races to the bottom', in which companies compete with each other to collect more and more valuable data on their users and customers. Certain companies are leading the charge with abusive and invasive profiling of data and innovative new methods of grabbing information from seemingly innocuous interactions. These practices tend to create short-term competitive disadvantages for the privacy-friendly companies, although in the long-term customer loyalty and goodwill may prove more valuable.

It is crucial to raise awareness amongst consumers about the commercial surveillance to which they are subjected on a daily basis, in order to all them to make better-informed decisions about whether or not to share personal information with certain companies. Equally, companies need to be more open about why they collect information and how it is processed.

We monitor industry practices and advocate for change when we see a downward spiral beginning. We often seek regulatory action against new business models and practices that pose significant risks to privacy principles or that risk setting dangerous precedents. We also work with companies to help them understand the risks of their products and services.

Consumer Protection

Blog
Anna Fielder's picture

Trade has often been a positive driver in encouraging countries to adopt data protection laws, to ensure compliance and ability to conduct business with the European Union and other privacy-respecting partners. However, when free trade agreements are negotiated in secret and influenced by powerful business interests, the result is a severe watering down of existing privacy protections. 

In the media
Publisher: 
The Sunday Times
Publication date: 
19-May-2013
Author(s): 
Robin Henry, Sanya Burgess and Cal Flyn
Original story link: 

Confidential personal information, including passports, bank details, court documents and the health data of vulnerable care patients, has been left on computers at internet cafes...Mike Rispoli, spokesman for Privacy International, said the internet cafes who fail to wipe customer data were “lazy”.

Countries: 
Blog
Carly Nyst's picture

The long-awaited release by Microsoft today of data about the number of law enforcement requests received and complied with by the company represents an important step forward in the ongoing challenge of understanding the scale of government access to communications information.

The data, the first set released by Microsoft, reveals that it received 70,665 requests for communications content and data in 2012, pertaining to 122,015 users or accounts. Communciations data was disclosed in 56,388 cases - 79.8% of the time. This is slightly higher than the rate at which Google produced communications data in 2012 - around 67% of the time. Unlike Google, Microsoft also published the amount of incidences in which they provided communications content in response to government requests - in 1,558 instances, or 2.2% of the overall requests.

Blog
Robin Wilton's picture

We are the raw material of the new economy. Data about all of us is being prospected for, mined, refined and traded...and most of us don’t even know about it.

Every time we go online, we add to a personal digital footprint that’s interconnected across multiple service providers, and enrich massive caches of personal data that identify us, whether we have explicitly authenticated or not.

That may make you feel somewhat uneasy. It's pretty hard to manage your digital footprint if you can't even see it.

Although none of us can control everything that’s known about us online, there are steps we can take to understand and regain some level of control over our online identities, and the Internet Society has developed three interactive tutorials to help educate and inform users who would like to find out more.

We set out to answer some basic questions about personal data and privacy:

In the media
Publisher: 
The Sunday Times
Publication date: 
09-Dec-2012
Author(s): 
Robin Henry
Original story link: 

Gus Hosein, executive director of Privacy International, described the prevalence of third-party tracking cookies as “mission creep”.

“These companies claim that the profiles they are building of online shoppers are anonymous, but the amount and variety of data collected is so large that our digital profiles can usually be easily linked to our real identities,” he said.

“This is the equivalent of having a supermarket employee not only follow you up and down the aisles as you do your weekly supermarket shop, but also inviting his friend from an American advertising company to do the same, and them both following you out of the store to see if you also pop into a rival store,” he added.

Blog
Nigel Waters's picture

There have been two rounds of meetings in 2012 of the OECD Committee for Information, Computer and Communications Policy (ICCP ) and some of its working parties – in May and October 2012, with further meeting of two working parties in December.  A ‘foresight forum’ on the ‘big data’ theme was held on 22 October. Civil society interest in the ICCP work programme is formalised through the Civil Society Information Society Advisory Council (CSISAC).

Blog
Emma Draper's picture

Privacy International asked lawyers, activists, researchers and hackers at Defcon 2012 about some of the debates that thrive at the intersection between law, technology and privacy. We also wanted to know why privacy matters to them, and what they thought the future of privacy looked like. This video is a result of those conversations. 

Featuring Cory Doctorow, Kade Crockford, Jameel Jaffer, Dan Kaminsky, Chris Soghoian, Marcia Hoffman, Moxie Marlinspike, Phil Zimmerman, Hanni Fakhoury and Eli O.

Many thanks to Michelle Leddon for creating this video.
In the media
Publisher: 
The Observer
Publication date: 
01-Jul-2012
Author(s): 
Jamie Doward and Caroline Mortimer
Original story link: 

Anna Fielder, consumer rights advocate and campaigner at Privacy International, which campaigns against commercial and state intrusion, said consumers in other countries were starting to question the roll-out of smart meters. "Research in Germany, for example, has found that consumers say it's really creepy and they don't want Big Brother in their houses," Fielder said.

She added that a key issue for privacy watchdogs would be the frequency at which information would be collected from the new meters. "If you collect energy information from a household very often, particularly live, even a few things at the end of each day, you get an awful lot of information about people's lifestyles that can potentially be abused in a number of different ways," Fielder said.

Countries: 
In the media
Publisher: 
BBC
Publication date: 
19-Jun-2012
Original story link: 

UK campaign group Privacy International warned of what it described as the potential pitfalls of the technology.

"Facebook are in the process of building the largest and most accurate facial recognition database in the world, and with great power comes great responsibility," the organisation's head of communications, Emma Draper, told the BBC.

"We would hope to see very strict safeguards on how this information is stored and who has access to it, particularly if - as seems increasingly likely - Facebook is going to start making money from it."

In the media
Publisher: 
BBC
Publication date: 
12-Jun-2012
Original story link: 

But Anna Fielder, from Privacy International, said the proposed safeguards needed to be toughened up in line with the EDPS recommendations.

She said: "As things stand, if you don't want your daily data uploaded you have to opt out.

"Suppliers will go for daily data collection and our experience tells us many people won't bother to opt out.

"We think people should have the right to opt into frequent data collection at every stage."

Countries: 

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