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IBM appoints first Chief Privacy Officer

Harriet Pearson will make us feel safe online

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IBM has named Harriet Pearson as its first Chief Privacy Officer, with the job of co-ordinating the development of IBM products to account for privacy and raising the company's image over consumer protection.

New Yorker Pearson has been with IBM since 1993 and was previously a lawyer in Washington and an engineer in Texas. IBM has already used her in several public policy areas and she's on various related committee boards.

CEO Louis Gertsner's ghost writer wrote a brief statement for him: "At its core, privacy is not a technology issue. It is a policy issue. And the policy framework that's needed here must involve the information technology industry, the private sector in general and public officials. As our chief privacy officer, Harriet Pearson will represent IBM with all of these important communities and drive our own cross-company privacy initiatives."

So there you have it. You could applaud IBM for being forward thinking, but then seeing as it is trying to restructure itself around its e-business philosophy, it would seem likely that privacy has shone out as an untouched topic. One thing's for sure - you can expect a number of large IT companies to follow suit. And you can also expect that they will be highly media-trained mini-celebs with nice hair and a winning phrase when each new product comes out.

The news has come as yet another report has concluded that people are concerned about privacy and security online. Two-thirds of Net users and three-quarters of non-users reckon privacy is threatened while you're online, and nearly 98 per cent of those online that haven't bought online are concerned about security of credit card details and the like - hardly surprising, but there you go.

Pearson starts work now and will report to LR Ricciardi, IBM senior vice president and general counsel. ®

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