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Intel says users are unaware of personal data collection by third parties

Aims to do something about it
Thu Oct 13 2011, 11:34

CHIPMAKER Intel has said there are "huge privacy issues" with delivering targeted content to users.

Mike Payne, director of Intel's Experience Design Lab told The INQUIRER that in the future users won't necessarily have to search for content but will "have content find users". Payne, referring to the ability for content providers to broadcast personalised content after recording user behaviour and preferences, said that some users are not aware of the private data they are giving away.

Payne said, "We've done a lot of work around privacy. An interesting thing is that most people aren't really aware of how vulnerable some of their data is over time, and even if they are, if you deliver enough value and experience they are willing to give it to you." That's not too surprising, given the popularity of web sites such as Facebook, but Payne said that in some cases trust between the user and the firm doesn't need to be there for data transfer.

"Sometimes even when they don't trust you they are willing to give it to you if there is enough return in the experience. If it was solely for advertising basis and they knew that, they wouldn't give it to you, it's not worth it," said Payne.

According to Payne, Intel wants to provide users with more control over their personal data. "The security around [personal data] is critical and today the information people are giving away, they don't know even know on usage and other things. We are very concerned about the security of that and putting control over that data in the hands of people themselves," said Payne.

One way Intel could implement user controls and improve the overall user experience is by taking control of the hardware and software stack, in a similar way to Apple with its IOS and Mac OS X operating systems. However, apart from its processor architecture and certain buses, Intel lets its partners do whatever they like in terms of motherboard design and what graphics card, operating system and software runs on top of the hardware.

Payne said Intel's relative openness does "to some extent" make the job of delivering a good experience harder. Payne continued, "I would say we are changing our mindset as a company. If we consider ourselves responsible to delivering great experiences to people how do we increase our role in doing that? That doesn't mean we have own an entire stack like Apple does, there are a variety of different ways of doing it."

Payne's comments about user ignorance about what data is being collected are refreshingly candid. While many firms dangle the carrot of personalised content in front of users, there is often little explanation about how they derive the recommendations. Although users should be allowed to opt-in to giving private information, it is worth noting that such data should still be secure from third parties.

On the face of it, Intel's role in keeping personal data secure seems somewhat unclear, however it is likely the firm will pitch some sort of end-to-end hardware encryption, similar to the DRM technology it has implemented in its Sandy Bridge processors.

Perhaps if companies had to negotiate DRM terms that favour the privacy of consumers' personal data then they might think twice about collecting it in the first place. µ


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