Blog readers in the U.S. may have missed this month’s Wired U.K., which included “ultra personalized” covers that provided detailed information about each of a small number of subscribers who received it. The cover included hand-collected data about subscribers’ telephone numbers, social networking activities, eBay purchases, property sales, and other activities, and was designed to highlight Wired‘s cover story on “what the end of privacy means for you.”
Wired has received mostly positive reactions, and a fair amount of attention, concerning its cover. U.K. journalist Benjamin Cohen blogged after receiving the magazine that he was “shocked” at how much Wired learned about him, including details such as the address to which Cohen’s parents had moved and the fact that he recently had a meeting with an ex-boyfriend.
Writer Andrew Losowsky observes that this is not the first time magazines have offered hyper-personalized content, but the cover comes at a time when the policy debate over information privacy continues at a rapid clip, with the FTC and NTIA in the U.S. working to develop new frameworks for regulating privacy and the EU regulator taking a hard look at data security.
It will come as no surprise to privacy professionals that online sources and government records can include information about individuals — particularly if those individuals do not use existing social media privacy settings, as Cohen says he did not. But, just as a series of reports in the Wall Street Journal last year led to a high-profile congressional investigation, renewed attention to consumer privacy issues in the press has the potential to focus regulators’ attention on these issues as they consider whether new legislation in the U.S. is necessary to address concerns about consumer privacy.
Later this week, we’ll look in more depth at the major considerations that are likely to influence regulators’ approach to privacy in the coming year.