Friday, February 24, 2006

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Opting Out vs. Opting In

Opting Out vs. Opting In

February 24, 2006

By Richard Kuper

The Op Ed Page

Somewhere along the way logic and what is in the best interest of individual citizens and consumers got twisted around. Take, for example, telemarketing calls. Most of us don't want them. Those of us who also wear the hat of business owners or marketing/sales folks, would like nothing more than to call on truly potential customers and not alienate those who might otherwise someday be customers. The government's solution? If you don't want these calls, you must register your number with the Do Not Call registry. Not only that, the request only holds for a few years, and then you need to do it again! The better solution from a consumer/citizen perspective would be to register your number if you want the calls. Same for faxes. I'll draw the line at snail mail, because there does need to be a way for businesses to make you aware of their products and services, and that is far less intrusive.

Another example of this twisted logic is the concept of search engines capturing and presenting, for their own profit no less, the content of other websites without their express permission. As was reported this week, Google has been sued for presenting copyrighted material without permission. Google finds itself in this position because it goes and captures stuff from all the websites on the internet (as do Yahoo! and the other search engines). Google and others have decided that they have the right to capture and display information from websites. If you don't want to have your information captured, you need to opt-out. Assuming this model is not found illegal by a court or by some international agreement, there should be more publicity about this for the multitude that are not aware of this. Also, because of the lawsuit against Google, Google and the other search engines may have to figure out a way to not capture and redisplay copyrighted material without express written authorization from the copyright holder. This may also further affect Google's plan to capture copyrighted print material and store it on the web for access to the world without first getting express written authorization from the copyright holder.

Another example of this twisted opt out vs opt in logic is with credit cards and financial institutions and others regarding the sharing of personal and financial information. Here again consumers have the burden of having to take proactive steps to inform every institution that they do not want such information shared with others. This is wrong. If a company or entity has a legitimate need to share information, such as a doctor sharing health information with another doctor for consultation, that is one thing, but if a company simply wants to share information because they can receive income by doing so, that should not be allowed by default.

The correct approach in all cases is unless one opts in, he or she is opted out by default.