Issues

Privacy

Defining the Issue

Background

Cisco’s Position

Additional Resources

Defining the Issue

The Internet privacy debate is concerned with how companies use consumer data for the purpose of improving their customers’ online experience. To ensure consumer confidence and expand e-commerce, businesses must be committed to protecting their customers’ privacy. Privacy is a global issue without national borders, and policymakers around the world are struggling to determine the best way to protect consumers' online privacy.

Background

Sensitive and confidential data is routinely transmitted across computer networks. Whether it is through e-commerce transactions or simple online polling, businesses collect and use data to maximize consumers' online experience. For example, online booksellers collect data to make reading recommendations; advertisers profile users based on Internet-surfing habits; and media sites collect data that allow visitors to customize the news they receive.

Businesses must address the integrity of consumer data to ensure consumer confidence, or they will not fully realize the benefits of e-commerce. At the same time, they must provide consumers with the best possible online experience and allow them to reap the benefits of online interactions.

The global nature of the Internet complicates privacy issues because of cultural and geographic differences related to privacy, security, and the role of the government. Cross-border approaches to dealing with privacy include voluntary consumer protection cooperation, multilateral treaties for criminal law enforcement, cyber incident response teams, and consumer education and awareness.

Cisco’s Position

To address the privacy issue, state, provincial, and national governments must develop policies that meet the needs of a global economy. Overly burdensome privacy policies can become barriers to trade, preventing the free flow of information across borders. Stringent rules impeding the cross-border flow of data may hinder new technology development as well as educational, commercial, and entertainment applications.

  • Where governments do regulate to address privacy concerns, this should be based on internationally recognized principles, and not to mandate the use of specific technologies or business models.
  • Cisco believes that industry self-regulation can be effective in protecting privacy, strengthened by innovative tools to provide consumers with choices to protect their personal data and understand how it is collected and used.
  • Several ambitious and successful industry-led initiatives, such as the Online Privacy Alliance and TRUSTe, have achieved a reasonable balance between consumer protection and business requirements.
  • Cisco’s own privacy policy is based on respect for its customers and a commitment to protect the information that they have shared. Cisco continually reviews and improves its own privacy policy to make sure it meets the changing needs of customer, the Internet, and global business and computing environments.

Additional Resources

Online Privacy Alliance

Privacy Exchange

Center for Democracy & Technology

Electronic Privacy Information Center

Cisco Privacy Statement