Paper given at the Second Annual 1999 Advertising Forum: Challenges and Opportunities of Advertising Today.

1. Introduction

Businesses collect, process, store, analyze, manipulate and transmit large amounts of business and personal information in electronic, paper and in other tangible forms. Transaction data gathering is becoming much easier in our computer-mediated and networked world.2 A plethora of computer related technologies, processes and techniques have created an "informational panopticon" in which people's lives become visible to the outside world and their ability to withdraw themselves from the public view becomes impossible.3

The increasing development, implementation and adoption of new technologies such as stored value and advanced cards, intelligent transportation systems, geographic information systems, voice mail and electronic mail systems, the use of the Internet for electronic commerce and data mining techniques will increase the amount of personal and transactional information that can be compiled into detailed profiles of individuals. This data can be sold, integrated with other data, reused, and transmitted to other countries for purposes not connected to those for which the data was initially gathered, all without the knowledge or consent of the individuals from whom the data was collected. This collection and use of personal information can benefit individuals and create new employment opportunities. However, the collection and use of such vast amounts of personal information also raises substantial concerns about privacy protection and the security of sensitive information.4

The Internet and the technologies related to the worldwide web are making it even easier and more cost effective to gather, store, analyse, transmit and reuse personal information in ways that were unimaginable before the adoption of such technologies. The increasing use of this "Information Super Highway" will facilitate and expand the flow of information from people to people and from place to place. As the use of these networks has grown, so have the concerns about safeguarding privacy. In fact, it has generally been recognized that adequate protection of personal information is needed before the full benefits of electronic commerce can be realized.5

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