Privacy is a fundamental right of prime importance to our employees and customers.
People rely on information technology in many aspects of their daily lives. Organizations use sophisticated systems to collect, aggregate, and analyze personal information, enabling them to provide consumers with personalized products and services. With the proliferation of cloud computing, data can now be available 24/7 from virtually anywhere in the world. New technologies are collecting, using, and processing data in new, innovative ways; much of this occurs behind the scenes without the user's full awareness or understanding.
While these trends make products and services more personalized, convenient, efficient, and widely available, the ubiquitous collection and use of personal data also sparks concerns. Many consumers question whether social networking, profiling, location-aware services, and behavioral observation and targeting threaten their privacy. People also worry that authorities in some regions can access, analyze, and control citizens' personal information too easily, at times infringing upon their right to privacy and freedom of expression.
These issues are compounded by a gap between the pace of technological advances and the evolution of new regulatory frameworks—many privacy laws were created before the widespread use of the Internet and certainly before robust behavioral tracking. Governments worldwide are taking steps to address this gap by enacting new legislation, increasing enforcement actions, providing guidance documents and education, encouraging industry standards and self-regulation, and other related initiatives. We remain heavily involved in the development of privacy policies and frameworks, and encourage cross-border collaboration to promote well-defined and consistent rules.
Clear accountability for handling personal information is critical as the technology economy evolves and personal data moves increasingly to the cloud. (See Making the most of information in a connected world.) We continue to develop and embed our accountability approach to privacy, to implement the concept of Privacy by Design in our products and services, and to consider the social impact our decisions may have.