Today eWEEK published a story about IBM and privacy entitled “Encryption: How to Save Privacy, Businesses and Borders.” In this piece, I am cited as saying “consumers really hate being surprised.”
The day that news is made which causes consumers (citizens in a government context) to say ”I had no idea” and the surprise involves them, their data, or their privacy … this makes for a bad hair day.
Of course, corporations and governments must protect things such as trade secrets and sources and methods. But when these “secrets” become broad scale, involve personally identifiable information and/or consumer transactional data, and come with a surprise, count on some degree of revolt and consequence – for example, a negative effect on an organization’s stock price or congressional outcry or both.
The chief antidote to avoiding consumer surprise is Transparency. And on this subject the book entitled, “The Transparent Society” by David Brin makes for a very interesting read.
And when systems are deployed with virtually no transparency (particularly government systems) not only are policy, oversight and accountability necessary … but additional safeguards are often necessary, for example, the use of privacy-enhancing technologies like Immutable Audit Logs and anonymization.