A lawyer at Google had some interesting things to say about privacy this week, namely how protecting customer data could be a competitive advantage. Privacy should be a big concern for CIOs, especially for the 17 percent of whom lead customer service in addition to IT, according to our 2012 State of the CIO survey, and to the 91 percent of whom don\u2019t, sadly, spend much time studying customer needs to identify commercial opportunities. If IT executives shift their thinking on privacy from it being an onerous regulatory issue to it being a valuable service, I believe we might see some positive changes in customer relationships. We might even see new ways to generate revenue.\u00a0\n\tKeith Enright, senior privacy counsel at Google, says that the \u201cDon\u2019t be evil\u201d company wants to build privacy controls into products and services at the start, so that users see plain-English explanations of what\u2019s happening to their personal data as they move around a Website. This kind of in-context privacy is easier to understand than long, legalistic privacy policies buried in administrative sections of a site, he says.\n\tVerbose privacy policies that users read, or at least agree to, in a vacuum may cover the company\u2019s corporate butt in litigation. But they don\u2019t do much to protect or educate users. Google already provides a dashboard of tools to tune privacy settings \u2013 users can turn off Web browsing history or delete individual pieces of history.\n\tBut the next step looks different. Say you want to enter an online contest for a dream vacation. As you start to fill in the form, a box pops up telling you what the company may do with the information you\u2019re about to type. The trade-offs are clear. \u201cIt\u2019s extraordinarily challenging to make sure you get the right message in front of consumers so they understand precisely what you\u2019re doing with that information,\u201d says Enright, who spoke during a PricewaterhouseCoopers webcast this week\u00a0about data privacy and protection.\n\tEnright says new products could have more in-context privacy settings. Through a user interface, he adds, \u201cyou can be sure users are in control of their privacy actions and decisions.\u201d\n\tGoogle lawyers, in fact, are now part of the product design process, although he is quick to point out that no one wants to quash innovation. \u201cTo ensure a privacy program doesn\u2019t impair innovation,\u201d he advises, \u201cdon\u2019t allow privacy requirements to be unilaterally mandated by the legal organization.\u201d It\u2019s a balance. \u201cThis needs to be a conversation, a running dialog between stakeholders.\u201d\n\tOf course, Google is also experimenting at the other end of the privacy spectrum -- pushing boundaries. As my colleague Kristin Burnham reports, it is offering $5 Amazon gift cards to people who sign up for a new browser extension called Screenwise that shows Google the sites you visit and how you use them. You can\u2019t buy even a vegetable peeler on Amazon for five bucks, but at least the trade-offs are clear.