The Internet and Privacy: Regulations in Flux

Published: 3 Nov 2008

Vinnie Aggarwal - Chief Economist, Frost & Sullivan

A survey conducted by IBM in 2007 shows that globally, personal Internet time rivals TV time. Currently, 19 percent of consumer respondents report spending six hours or more a day on the Internet, versus 6 percent reporting the same levels of television viewing. Furthermore, 60 percent report surfing the Web for one to four hours a day, while 66 percent spend comparable time in front of the television screen. (http://www-03.ibm.com/press/us/en/pressrelease/22206.wss)

Perhaps the most significant impact of the Internet for companies has come in the form of advertising. Google has capitalized on this best with its innovative search engine marketing technology, enabling advertisements to come up concurrently with relevant searches. The ability of the Internet to not only provide information to the collective whole, but also to personalize it to a unique individual, means that companies will have to both be creative with their marketing strategy and take advantage of new advances in technology and software to reach their customers.

While it is clear that companies will increasingly rely on consumers to tell them what they want (through Internet searches and the like), perhaps less clear are what responsibilities companies have when citizens are blocked from searching for the information that they want. Government censorship of the Internet has increased dramatically, with a 2007 study conducted by OpenNet Initiative finding 25 out of 41 countries surveyed guilty of the act; prominent among them are China, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, and Singapore. (BBC News, May 18, 2007, Technology.)

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