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Free Market Competition Working Against Online Privacy

There is no doubt that online privacy is a big issue. But advocates are questioning if the current free market competition is working against it. Companies who are competing aggressively value customer data very highly. So, they take a lot of trouble in ensuring that they get the type of data that they want behind the scenes. Consumers, some of whom are worried about online privacy but don’t know how much data is being collected, and others who don’t even care about online privacy, are the ones who suffer due to this aggressive competition.

Effectively, there is no one regulating the market and hence, the competition. So, the basic rule of survival, the survival of fittest applies in a free market. The company or organization that records the best sales tops the list and hence survives. The ones that are at the bottom decline and eventually fade out. At the end of the day, company representatives are not bothered if consumers want to shop without being tracked or if their computer is secure. All that matters to them is the gross sales figure recorded.

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Congress or FTC Should Call The Shots

Privacy advocates who had converged at an online privacy conference recently called forth the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Congress to take a firm stand in this regard. They encouraged any one of these bodies to come up with a rule book that clearly dictates the online privacy rules companies should follow in the current free market situation. Most advocates were unanimous in voicing this opinion, stating that either one of these aforementioned bodies have the power and resources to ensure that the rules that they have coined are enforced and followed diligently.

Consumers Basically Don’t Understand How Online Privacy Works

The privacy advocates were also critical about the attitude of consumers towards online privacy. While some consumers genuinely care about online privacy and take steps to ensure that their privacy is protected, this type of consumers form only a small section of the overall consumer community. They said that great deals and discounts are more important to many consumers who are willing to ignore online privacy warnings if that will fetch them handsome discounts and great package deals. They also added that more than 40% of the consumer community is not even aware of this data collection policy of the companies that might compromise their online privacy.

Not Many People Understand the Consequences of Online Privacy Invasion

Privacy advocates opined in the conference that people still don’t understand the consequences online privacy invasion can have. Howard Beales, Gorge Washington University’s business professor, compared the privacy invasion situation to that of a burglary in the house. People clearly understand what a burglary is and the consequences it might have. So, they are careful about their security systems. But when it comes to online privacy invasion, people are still unsure how dire the consequences can be. But when the blow strikes, it might be too late to react then.

Trends Show the Situation is improving

Even though privacy advocates were critical of the consumer community, they felt that the consumers are starting to behave like they care about online privacy. They said that people are starting to use browsers with improved encryption standards, Virtual Private Networks, etc. to protect themselves online. They are also paying attention to the web pages that they visit and trying to avoid pages that look potentially dangerous. While this might be a step in the positive direction, the advocates said that consumer community still has a long way to go before completely ensuring that online privacy is completely protected.

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