Since 1990, Ann Cavoukian, coauthor with Don Tapscott of Who Knows: Safeguarding Your Privacy in a Networked World (McGraw-Hill, 800-338-3987, 1997, $24.95), has served as assistant commissioner and commissioner of the Information and Privacy Commission for the Canadian province of Ontario. She argues that it makes good business sense for companies to respect customer privacy:

"Businesspeople traditionally rail against the notion of privacy legislation, claiming that it impedes free enterprise. But that's not necessarily true. When Quebec recently extended its privacy laws to the private sector, businesses were not crippled, as many feared. In fact, privacy codes may actually help you gain customer trust and loyalty. Some companies have even found that privacy protection is a cost-reduction tool. Companies often have archaic information practices, and they collect a good deal of information from their customers--information they just don't need. A company that begins to scrutinize its information holdings from a privacy perspective may discover that it can save valuable computer processing time and memory. And it might also find that its employees will be more efficient if they don't have to collect data that never gets used."