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FORRESTER ISSUES PRIVACY STORM WARNING

Source: CRMDaily.com

Posted on March 14, 2001

      Forrester Research issued a strongly worded warning regarding the practice of tracking physical movements of mobile-connected Internet users, saying it will "increase the volatility of the privacy debate."

      The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based research firm said companies need to recognize that privacy is a core business issue. They must reassess their policies and align them with CRM strategies in order to stem the tide of growing consumer fears about how their personal information is being used, Forrester advised.

Wireless Stalking?

Forrester honed in on the use of mobile devices to track consumer whereabouts. The firm said that while some U.S. carriers claim to support federal legislation to limit the practice, they are also seeking ways to circumvent such regulation.

      "They are pressing the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for a vague interpretation of 'opt-in' that lets them secure consent in the fine print of larger documents like service agreements or on-screen 'click-wrap' agreements," Forrester analyst Jay Stanley said. "This obfuscation -- and the FCC's likely partial support of it -- only inflames consumers' privacy fears."

Battlefield Cyberspace

Addressing the issue in terms that at times sounded like Cold War rhetoric, Stanley said: "Wireless is the next battle. Successive waves of new technology and the growing complexity of privacy regulations will keep the privacy issue from going away. Privacy will become the countervailing force against the Information Revolution and its radical effects on the free flow of data."

      Only 6 percent of Americans have a high level of trust in how Web sites handle their personal information, the report said, and 7 in 8 favor legislation that protects Internet privacy.

Top-to-Bottom Review

The report, entitled "Surviving the Privacy Revolution," was culled from information gathered from legal, academic and industry experts on consumer privacy, as well as from 20 wireless application developers, content providers and carriers.

      It urged companies to assess their use of consumer information across the entire enterprise to see how it is gathered, how it is used and secured, and how their practices comply with current regulations.

      The next step, said Forrester, is for companies to decide on a comprehensive privacy policy and enforce that policy rigorously. Forrester urged companies to appoint a high-level chief privacy officer with free rein to halt activities that might violate their privacy policies.

      "A company with a mediocre privacy policy is part of the pack today, but those that endure the rigor of a top-to-bottom privacy transformation will increase their credibility across the board," the report concluded




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