As business transactions move online, consumers are often asked to disclose Personally Identifying Information (PII)—name, address, phone number, birth date, social security number, credit card and bank account numbers. Our credit-based economy relies on the quick and easy availability of this information. However, increasingly sophisticated fraudsters continue to devise new ways to tap into this wealth of information, whether by hacking customer databases or perpetrating online scams. New technologies and the increasing ability to store and analyze consumer data also raise questions about consumer choice in disclosing personal information and the ability to adequately secure data. At the hearings, panelists explored not only how to protect PII through traditional security means, but also alternative methods of identification and how to empower consumers to control the flow of their own personal information.
This topic was considered during virtually every panel, including:
See the Tech-ade Agenda for more information on the panels in which this topic was examined.
- Globalization and international data flows: Communication advances have made it possible for companies to do business around the globe. The notion that a database is “located” in one place is archaic—global companies have sophisticated computer systems that allow access to databases from locations around the world. Sharing of data within multi-national companies and outsourcing to offshore service providers frequently result in the transfer of consumers’ personal information across borders.
For more information, check out:
U.S. Department of Commerce Safe Harbor website
- Personally Identifying Information (PII): PII is any piece of information that could be used to uniquely identify a person. This includes but is not limited to a person’s name, address, phone number, birth date, social security number, or credit card and bank account numbers. The widespread electronic transmission of PII puts consumers at risk for identity theft.
For more information, check out:
FTC’s Avoid ID Theft website
- GPS tracking: Many consumer products (including mobile devices such as cellular phones or PDAs) are equipped with receivers that permit the product’s location to be tracked using a satellite navigation system. This technology is known as the Global Positioning System (GPS). GPS receivers are often used in automobile navigation systems and, when equipped in cell phones, can also be used by emergency services or by companies wanting to provide location-based services. The recorded location information can be stored inside the device or transmitted to another party.
- Identity management: Companies and organizations often use a combination of technologies and policies to create a system for controlling access to online applications and resources. These systems protect confidential information from being accessed by unauthorized users and include processes such as authentication, passwords, and user accounts.
Other related materials
Joseph Turow, Chris Jay Hoofnagle, Deirdre K. Mulligan, Nathaniel Good, & Jens Grossklags, The FTC and Consumer Privacy In the Coming Decade (2006)
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