Chapter Eight: Privacy Concerns

Technology Privacy Concerns

“Five Data Privacy Principles from Mozilla (Put on a museum wall) 2014” by vintagedept is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

The very existence of huge electronic file cabinets full of personal information presents a threat to personal privacy. Until recently, financial, medical, tax, and other records were stored in separate computer systems. Computer networks make it easy to pool these data into data warehouses. Also, companies also sell the information they collect from sources like warranty registration cards, credit-card records, registration at websites, personal data forms required to purchase online, and grocery store discount memberships. Telemarketers combine data from different sources to create fairly detailed profiles of consumers.

The September 11, 2001, tragedy and other massive security breaches have raised additional privacy concerns. As a result, the government began looking for ways to improve domestic-intelligence collection and analyze terrorist threats within the United States. Sophisticated database applications that look for hidden patterns in a group of data, a process called data mining, increase the potential for tracking and predicting people’s daily activities. Legislators and privacy activists worry that such programs as this and ones that eavesdrop electronically could lead to excessive government surveillance that encroaches on personal privacy. The stakes are much higher as well: errors in data mining by companies in business may only result in a consumer being targeted with inappropriate advertising, whereas a governmental mistake could do untold damage to an unjustly targeted person.

Consumers and privacy advocates are working to block sales of information collected by governments and corporations. For example, they want to prevent state governments from selling driver’s license information and supermarkets from collecting and selling information gathered when shoppers use barcoded plastic discount cards.

“data privacy” by stockcatalog is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

The challenge to companies is to find a balance between collecting the information they need while at the same time protecting individual consumer rights. Most registration and warranty forms that ask questions about income and interests have a box for consumers to check to prevent the company from selling their names. Many companies now state in their privacy policies that they will not abuse the information they collect. Regulators are taking action against companies that fail to respect consumer privacy.

The following are useful resources to help leaders assess legal and ethical best practices around privacy.

Federal and local laws around tech privacy

Initial Privacy Assessment Template

Privacy Impact Assessment Template 

Administrative Privacy Impact Assessment Template

Published Privacy Impact Assessments


Gitman, L. J., McDaniel, C., Shah, A., Reece, M., Koffel, L., Talsma, B., & Hyatt, J. C. (2018, September 19). 13.5 protecting computers and information – introduction to business. OpenStax.


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Technology Tools for Leaders by Andrea Bearman and Jill Noyes is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book