What's Private, And What's Not? Ask Ibm

In theory, privacy is a simple enough concept. But in practice, it can be terrifyingly complex. The U.S., for example, has no uniform policy to protect digital information, while Europe does.

As is often the case, angst equals consulting opportunity. On July 16, IBM launched one of the first high-tech consulting practices specializing in privacy. More than 1,400 consultants will help businesses struggling to understand and address the issue of collecting personal data electronically. It's a hot topic. As more corporations conduct their business electronically, they're worrying that any missteps with sensitive information could hurt consumer confidence. "Our customers say that a major privacy disaster would mean they'd have to close shop and reopen under another name," says Rebecca Whitener, an IBM consultant.

What will the consultants do? For starters, they'll run workshops laying out the issues. Then they'll do a complete privacy overhaul, identifying legal issues, assessing what data should be protected, how to set up and enforce policies--and, of course, they'll implement it all. The price tag: From $15,000 for a basic workshop up to $250,000 for the works.

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