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Policy / DCN perspectives on policy, law, and legislative news surrounding digital content

Hidden Tracking Undermines Consumer Trust

January 23, 2015 | By Chris Pedigo, SVP Government Affairs – DCN @Pedigo_Chris

The recent revelation that healthcare.gov was sending highly personal data about consumers to third parties highlighted two important ways that consumer trust is undermined.

One, healthcare.gov needs to be a far better steward of the direct relationship they have with consumers. Rightfully, consumers have an expectation that websites and services will protect their sensitive data and certainly not recklessly broadcast that data to the world.

Second, there needs to be greater transparency and controls for consumers around what data is being collected and used by third parties. Some companies have a presence on a website simply to help that website operate. See the well-written reaction from Tony Haile at Chartbeat  http://blog.chartbeat.com/2015/01/22/chartbeat-healthcare-gov-personal-information/.

The role of some third parties, however, is far less clear or even apparent to an average consumer. Revelations like this one with healthcare.gov highlight the need for a more effective and simple tool for consumers to express choice over how their data is collected and used. Given the explosion in the complexity and capability of the Internet and the different relationships that consumers have with various companies on the web, it is more important than ever for industry to develop a reasonable Do Not Track (DNT) standard that will give consumers a meaningful choice over how their data is collected and used by companies with which they have no relationship.

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