Privacy Advisor

Privacy Advisor Catches up with Author Don Tapscott

November 1, 2006

The Privacy Advisor interviewed Don Tapscott, author of "The Naked Corporation: How the Age of Transparency Will Revolutionize Business." Tapscott, an internationally renowned authority on the strategic value and impact of information technology, is working on a new book, "Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything." Tapscott was a keynote speaker at the IAPP Privacy Academy 2006 last month in Toronto.

The Privacy Advisor (TPA): Can you explain how you became interested in the topic of privacy?

Tapscott: As a social activist in the 1960s, I became aware that the government kept a detailed file on me. I thought that was inappropriate because I was not a law-breaker.

TPA: In 1996, you and co-author, Dr. Ann Cavoukian, published, Who Knows: Safeguarding Your Privacy in a Networked World. What are some of the unexpected privacy issues you anticipated well before these concerns became evident in the marketplace?

Tapscott: In the early 1990s, I understood how the Net was going to revolutionize society and it occurred to me that non-government threats to privacy might eclipse "Big Brother."

TPA: What are some of the predictions you made about privacy threats that did not come to fruition?

The book Who Knows stands up remarkably well. I can't say that about everything I've written.

In your book, you described "digital crumbs" as pieces of information, that when taken together, add up to a whole individual profile. In your view, what are the inherent risks of this practice and should they be minimized, and if so, how?

Tapscott: The solution is not to lay out or collect crumbs. The solution to safeguarding privacy is to have strict controls, voluntary and otherwise, regarding how those crumbs will
be used.

It's 2016. Given your track record for predictions about privacy threats, give us a few examples of the emerging
privacy threats you see over the next decade.

Tapscott: With the recent actions of the U.S. and other governments, it turns out that "Big Brother" may in fact be less benign that I've implied in the past.

TPA: How do you recommend that people protect their personal privacy online?

Tapscott: All the usual safeguards make sense. Don't give away your birth date, Social Security number or other unnecessary information. Challenge vendors who want such.

TPA: Can you tell us, generally, what topic your next book will tackle?

Tapscott: The book is called Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything. Throughout history corporations have organized themselves according to strict hierarchical lines of authority. Everyone was a subordinate to someone else - employees versus managers, marketers versus customers, producers versus supply chain sub-contractors, companies versus the community. Today millions of media buffs now use blogs, wikis, chat rooms, and personal broadcasting to add their voices to a vociferous stream of dialogue and debate called the Blogosphere. Employees drive performance by collaborating with peers across organizational boundaries, creating what we call a wiki workplace. Customers become prosumers by getting engaged in co-creating goods and services rather than simply consuming the end product. So called "supply chains" work more effectively when the risk, reward and capability to complete major projects - including massively complex products like cars, motorcycles and airplanes - are distributed across planetary networks of partners. Mass collaboration is beginning to change many aspects of the economy.