Magazine article Information Today

Anonymity, Privacy, and Full Disclosure

Magazine article Information Today

Anonymity, Privacy, and Full Disclosure

Article excerpt

Business contact information provider Jigsaw Data Corp. raised a few eyebrows recently with what has been called an audacious approach to community building on the Web.

Here's how the Jigsaw service works: Subscribers pay a monthly fee to access Jigsaw's business contact database, which is fair enough. But the critics say the database (built by its members in a collaborative, self-correcting, Wikipedia-like way) violates the privacy of the listed individuals who did not necessarily grant permission to be included in the directory in the first place.

According to critics, the Jigsaw service encourages people to pirate someone else's contact details since members get credits for every set of contact details they enter into the database or any record they correct. To get free service, members need to add 25 contacts each month. This lowers their bills and gives them an incentive to come up with as many contacts as they can, even if those contacts are not actually people they know.

I'm all for privacy, but I'm not sure why people are so sensitive about having their business contact information widely distributed. Assuming the business is legitimate and behaves generally in an ethical way, why would a company's employees (including its executives) want to hide from the public?

Hardly anyone who has written to me lately has included a full signature line in the message. I have actually completed entire negotiation processes only to realize that I don't have a mailing address when it comes time to draw up the contract or mail the check. Hunting down such details can be time-consuming and frustrating; asking people for these facts can also be labor-intensive. And what is the business reason?

We're all busy, of course, and busy people don't want to be bothered by frivolous inquiries. So I understand why some people feel the need to hold their contact details close. …

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