Online privacy is changing in the US.  Yes, it’s finally happening.  Have no doubt, there’s going to be more government regulation and there’s going to be more industry self-regulation.  The flurry of big privacy announcements at the end of 2010 – each one trying to outdo the others – made clear that US privacy is coming alive in 2011.

There are lots of details to figure out now and this is going to be as messy a process as any parliamentarian debate.  Different government agencies are trying to establish themselves as privacy functionaries.  Companies with all kinds of new and unique business models are proposing different self-regulation best practices.  Industry standard organizations are cataloging the new ways consumer data is being processed and exchanged.  Anti-abuse groups are working fast to stop sophisticated and well financed cyber-gangs that are harvesting consumer data to arm their phishing attacks.  All these groups are stakeholders in the online marketing, commerce and messaging ecosystems and there all going to be making their voice heard on privacy in 2011.

Whatever the balance of government versus self-regulation the US system works out over the next year, there’s one thing that’s clear – the consumer will have more information about privacy and easier ways to make decisions about that info.  Consumer empowerment was the theme in the FTC, Microsoft and the Commerce Department big December privacy announcements.  They disagreed on the specifics of how to do it, however, all they were all consistent in the goal of giving consumers more information and control on who’s collecting and sharing data about them.

Privacy is changing.  The consumer is becoming more powerful.  Will this change how businesses compete in the online spaces?   That’s the topic of the next post in this privacy blog series.