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The glass consumer

The glass consumer: Life in a surveillance society

Edited by Susanne Lace
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  • Book Info
    The glass consumer
    Book Description:

    We are all 'glass consumers'. Organisations know so much about us, they can almost see through us. Governments and businesses collect and process our personal information on a massive scale. Everything we do, and everywhere we go, leaves a trail. But is this in our interests? The glass consumer appraises this relentless scrutiny of consumers' lives. It reviews what is known about how personal information is used and examines the benefits and risks to consumers. The book takes the debate beyond privacy issues, arguing that we are living in a world in which - more than ever before - our personal information defines our opportunities in life. This book is essential reading for anyone concerned with the future of information use, data protection and privacy. It will also appeal more widely to those with an interest in technology and society, social policy, consumption, marketing and business studies.

    eISBN: 978-1-84742-127-2
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)
    Susanne Lace

    This is a current, not a future-based, scenario. We are all ‘glass consumers’: others know so much about us, they can almost see through us. Our everyday lives are recorded, analysed and monitored in innumerable ways but mostly we do not realise, or think nothing of it. When we are aware, we may even welcome it — CCTV may make us feel safer, we may appreciate discounts received as supermarket loyalty cardholders.

    Yet our lives are subject to forms and levels of scrutiny that raise hugely important issues, which question the kind of society we want to live in. The significance...

  2. Part One: Orientations

    • 1 The personal information economy: trends and prospects for consumers
      (pp. 17-44)
      Perri 6

      At least for the last 30 years or so, and perhaps for longer, we have lived in a personal information economy (6, 1998). We have, of course, been ‘information societies’ since writing was invented in ancient Sumer: human societies of any complexity can hardly be organised on any basis other than information. But the centrality of personal profiling is a much more recent phenomenon.

      Personal information is increasingly the basic fuel on which economic activity runs. Getting control and being able to make intensive use of vast databanks of profiles on individual consumers, citizens, clients and subjects gives an organisation...

    • 2 Regulatory provisions for privacy protection
      (pp. 45-68)
      Charles Raab

      The protection of personal data has moved higher on the policy agenda in business and the public sector in recent years. In part, this reflects a realisation in many countries and international organisations that an apprehensive, albeit poorly informed, public is less likely to embrace online transactions in electronic commerce and electronic government than the proponents of these innovations would wish (Raab, 1998, 2001). Insofar as the processing of personal data is also construed as a privacy issue, data protection goes beyond the instrumental value of protection for winning public trust for ecommerce and e-government (and e-voting as well), and...

    • 3 The use and value of privacy-enhancing technologies
      (pp. 69-96)
      John Borking

      As legislation to protect personal data has become increasingly complex, technology has provided ever more sophisticated solutions for complying with that legislation. But this is not technology’s only role. Moving beyond minimum compliance, technology can provide applications that positively enhance consumer privacy and provide consumers with greater control over their data. This chapter will consider the role of technology in this context. It will begin by examining briefly the importance of privacy, before moving on to outline the content and significance of the Data Protection Directive. The chapter will discuss how systems of privacy-enhancing technologies (PETs) can be built, before...

  3. Part Two: Contexts

    • 4 The data-informed marketing model and its social responsibility
      (pp. 99-132)
      Martin Evans

      The blend of tracking customers’ transactions, their financial status, profile characteristics and financial value to the company has now become the bedrock marketing model for many businesses and is being extended by the use of many more sources of personal data. Furthermore, the last 20 years or so have seen a number of significant developments that have fuelled this even further. This chapter explores some of these together with possible social implications arising from their implementation.

      More specifically, the chapter is structured around four themes. First, the positive contribution of the data-informed marketing model to both business and consumers. Second,...

    • 5 Personal data in the public sector: reconciling necessary sharing with confidentiality?
      (pp. 133-154)
      Christine Bellamy, Perri 6 and Charles Raab

      In order to carry out their work, public services collect, process and store vast quantities of data relating to every man, woman and child in the UK. Yet public officials and data subjects alike are confused about the powers that government agencies possess to exploit those data and the safeguards that have been put in place to protect the privacy of the individuals to whom they belong. On the one hand, the impact of the poll tax in reducing rates of returns for the 1991 Census apparently revealed a widespread assumption that different government departments routinely pool personal data. On...

  4. Part Three: Case studies

    • 6 Data use in credit and insurance: controlling unfair outcomes
      (pp. 157-186)
      Harriet Hall

      This chapter considers how information on consumers is used in credit and insurance. It is not a chapter on privacy concerns, but on how data use can affect the availability of these services and how this may produce unfair outcomes.

      Before considering the negative effects, it is worth pointing out that data manipulation is fundamental to modern, mass market credit and insurance. Credit and insurance share the fact that data are collected on millions of individuals to define the characteristics of those who are creditworthy or those who are an acceptable insurance risk. Data belonging to an individual are then...

    • 7 Personal information in the National Health Service: the demise or rise of patient interests?
      (pp. 187-204)
      Jonathan Montgomery

      Information is essential to effective healthcare. Patients need to know that the health professionals caring for them are taking decisions based on accurate information about them as individuals and about the available treatments for their health problems. Over the past few years, the National Health Service (NHS) has put considerable effort into improving the management of information. The establishment of the National Institute for Clinical Excellence has furthered the drive to ensure that care is based on sound scientific evidence about effectiveness. Monitoring of mishaps and learning the lessons has been systematised, both in local NHS organisations and through the...

  5. Part Four: NCC’s agenda

    • 8 The new personal information agenda
      (pp. 207-246)
      Susanne Lace

      Bruce Kasanoff has predicted that soon we will read books on digital publication readers. Our reading habits will be recorded in companies’ databases and we will have agreed to this, encouraged by some sufficiently appealing offer.

      But whether or not digital readers take off, much of our own lives already are an open book. Authors in this volume have described how our lives are constantly recorded and scrutinised — how we have become ‘glass consumers’.

      The personal information economy does represent a new world in formation. It forces a fresh exploration of what our rights and responsibilities are. And yet the...