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Privacy and Progress on the Web

There’s a big controversy on the web these days, with Privacy advocates fighting with Facebook: http://civ.moveon.org/facebookprivacy/Facebook, currently the most-talked-about Social Networking site on the web, is using member data in ads that appear on their site to drive business for their advertisers.For example, if you just bought something on Overstock.com, Facebook places an ad on all your friends’ pages, telling them what you bought, in hopes that your friends will then go to Overstock and buy something too. It’s a questionable use of data, and it’s causing a lot of noise in the blogosphere. Here’s one example: http://www.scripting.com/stories/2007/11/24/diggingIntoTheLatestFacebo.html It’s an interesting discussion for the percentage of web users who care. And that percentage seems to be growing. Moveon.org seems to care. If you live in UK, where 25m citizens’ private data has been “lost,” more and more people are caring everyday. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/11/21/ncustoms221.xml As we at Cisco develop the capability to use visitors’ data to provide a more adaptive, personalized experience on Cisco.com, it behooves us to pay attention to the discussion. The purpose of providing such an experience must be to help visitors have a more successful online experience. Progress in web analytics and data mining have presented us this opportunity. Our success will depend on the way we use this capability to relate to our customers. Another way to think of it is how we’re representing the Cisco brand. If we manage our customers’ experience in a way that is consistent with our values and our culture, we’ll be fine. If we make a mistake, which we may occasionally do, our customers will let us know, and we better pay attention if/when that happens.

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