Are we ever too old to learn from our parents?
When I started work at AOL more than a decade ago, I often grinned at the common product question which was asked – would your parents be able to use this? In nearly all cases, mine would, but then my parents have proven to be early adopters of technology even before the internet (except for one small blip when the compact disc was invented which will live on in family lore for a long, long time). Because of this, I listened attentively when on a recent visit both of my parents asked me a number of probing questions about what they could and could not trust online, including using their email address to subscribe to this blog.
Imagine, my own parents nervous about what kind of mailing list they would end up on as a result of subscribing to their daughter’s blog. This was startling and mildly alarming to me as someone who relies for my livelihood on people exchanging their information (not just email, but often credit card details to make a purchase) for a product or service that I provide.
So today in my news round up over my morning coffee, I’ve come across this article in the LA Times:
Facebook executive warns senators that restrictive privacy rules could squelch benefits of social Web | Technology | Los Angeles Times.
It is just one of many covering the privacy legislation introduced by Sen. Kerry. My normal response would be the same as Facebook’s CTO – let the innovators in the industry get on with figuring out a commercial solution. In effect, “trust us, we won’t abuse our customers“. Well, I still believe that most of us won’t abuse our customers. And in fact, I will always be a consumer advocate in any digital business I am involved with. However, I am not sure that we as an industry have earned the trust of the people, and therefore their government. This statement is true not just for the US, but also for European and Australia markets where governments are equally concerned with privacy and trying to determine how to legislate protection.
I definitely do not want to push for this legislation because the likelihood of governments to really understand the issue and the ramifications of their laws is low. Digital privacy is a complex area with some stellar experts working in the space around the world. My wish is that all businesses could act responsibly and respectfully when using and sharing consumer data. More laws, more lawsuits, and more compliance is sure to dampen innovation, especially for individual entrepreneurs and small businesses.
On the other hand, something must change so that my parents once again feel comfortable surrendering their email address to me via my blog. How can we help legislators understand all sides of this issue?