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Can Internet Service Providers In My Area Benefit From Being More Transparent?

It seems that consumers are demanding more transparency from the companies they deal with. And recent news has pointed several times to the transparency of agencies like the NSA, with many citizens surprised by the amount of information the agency has been able to obtain. It seems like transparency is a double-edged sword, with increased customer trust at one end, but the possible sacrificing of values like privacy on the other.

There is no doubt that being transparent has many benefits, both for the customer and the business who employs it. A trusting customer is one who will return, and so sharing information with customers that may traditionally on a need-to-know basis can do a lot to cultivate trust. And trust means repeated sales, as well as positive recommendations.

Even a company’s stated willingness to be transparent says a lot; mainly, that they have nothing to hide from their customers. This can mean placing a lot on the line, as declaring transparency can mean being closely observed by anyone, including critics. This has occurred with some ISPs, and has forced them to be more accountable when dealing with customers.

There is a school of thought which believes that some company information should remain classified. And the reason they say this is because they say that transparency can quickly become a slippery slope. For example, where should a company draw the line? Many feel that the more transparency that is demanded by customers and given by companies, the higher the likelihood that transparency will become more important than other things that customers hold dear.

Those in the skeptics camp opine that transparency works best when it is offered, but on a limited-time basis. This will allow customers access to the information they need, but not indefinitely. Doing things in this way may also result in the preservation of values like privacy. At least one internet company is doing exactly this.

The self-destructing email is a good example of time-limited transparency. One internet company recently filed a patent that would allow the sender of an email message to decide how for how long it would remain readable. As well, the sender would also be able to set other permissions, such as the ability to print and edit the message contents. While this does speak more to the privacy of our information and organizations like the NSA, it also does represent a good example of time-limited transparency.

Social media is another location online that may benefit from transparency. Although most users of social media have no issue with logging on via internet service providers in my area and sharing the latest news about themselves, it is the companies who aggregate and store all user data that may benefit from being more transparent than they already are. Bu tthis may also end up in other cans of worms being opened, such as which advertising companies our media is being sold to, and how sensitive that information is.

Posted by Leah Burton on June 27th, 2013 :: Filed under Internet Information
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