Citizens are increasingly offered opportunities for using technological innovations, which are meant to improve their productivity, convenience and overall quality of life. However, a great deal of these innovations requires end-users to share their data on-line with a service provider or in several cases (like social media) with other users as well. Furthermore, the citizens’ engagement in on-line services such as e-commerce sites facilitates service providers to collect, analyze and leverage behavioral data about them. All these are prominent cases where IT applications raise privacy concerns, which can be a serious set-back to the wider adoption and use of such modern technology.
Privacy concerns about on-line services is nothing new, as people have been quite privacy sensitive since the early days of the internet. However, the advent of a wave of privacy threating technologies (such as sensors and Internet-of-Things technologies), along with the rise of BigData capabilities that enable storage and processing of arbitrarily large volumes of personal data, have made pre-existing concerns much more intense. In this landscape, enterprises need to understand the business value of privacy and also the importance of privacy preserving and privacy enhancing technologies.
In principle vendors and providers of IT products and services cannot afford to ignore privacy for the following main reasons:
Overall, privacy management is associated with significant social and business impact. On one hand, effective and compliant privacy management is a key to increasing end-users’ trust in IT product and services. And on the other, this enhanced trust is a key prerequisite for the market uptake of these products, through facilitating end-user’s participation and safeguarding the brand reputation.
The need for effective privacy management is associated with a host of products and services in many different sectors. Here are some representative examples:
Though not exhaustive, the above list of applications is indicative of the scope and importance of privacy management. In order to deal with privacy management, enterprises are offered a pool of processes and controls which are usually detailed in the scope of privacy regulations and mandates. Towards implementing these controls in an efficient way, IT enterprises can leverage the so-called “privacy-preserving” or “privacy enhancing technologies”, which are required to be integrated into IT systems in order to facilitate and enhance end-users’ privacy. There is a wave of such technologies spanning the full range of IT enablers, including databases, distributed systems, BigData analytics and the internet-of-things. Without dwelling into the technical details, here are some examples:
Privacy preserving technologies come, in most cases, embedded in products and services and hence are not widely visible as stand-alone products. Nevertheless, privacy management functionalities/ controls(e.g., Facebook’s privacy settings) are usually available in a prominent way in these applications.
It’s crystal clear that vendors, integrators and providers of on-line services cannot afford to deal with privacy as a second-class citizen. Companies that fail to blend privacy with their business priorities are likely to face regulatory risks and market failure. To their rescue, a wide range of privacy enhancing technologies are already available, along with a mature regulatory environment that they have to understand, respect and implement.
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