Privacy: How Quaint
By Al McClain
In the “good old days,” consumer privacy issues were relegated to things like cutting up old credit cards, destroying receipts, and hoping the waiter didn’t write down your credit
card number. We soon progressed to the “do not call” list, spam filters, and junk mail blacklists. Those issues were complemented by what online retailers might do
with information you entered while shopping, and whether or not “brick and mortar” retailers were keeping records of your purchases. Then, of course, we had e-tailers like
Amazon that collected information on your shopping habits, and marketed to you accordingly.
While some of those challenges have gone by the wayside — the “do not call” list seems to work pretty well — we now can add to the list new issues like Google serving up ads
based on e-mail content (for gmail users), the tracking of keyword searches, and the ability of anyone to do a Google or Yahoo search on anybody, anytime – digging up all kinds
of things. And, of course, postings made by individuals on the web stick around potentially for a very long time.
For retailers and marketers, a number of new issues emerge:
- What do you track about your web customers, what do you retain, and for how long?
- What are you willing to release to government authorities and when?
- Do you track only actual shopping habits, or do you try to track browsing habits to do better targeted marketing?
- Are your in-store tracking polices and your online policies consistent, and does it matter?
At the 2006 Wharton Technology Conference, Gil Brodnitz, a partner at Accenture, said, “In a world of photo traffic tickets and warrantless searches, what Google does with my
personal information doesn’t bother me.”
even if they never do it.”
Moderator’s comment: What do you consider as “best practices” for tracking consumers online?
Consumers are no doubt OK with personalized offers that bring them better shopping deals and/or that give them a better shopping experience. But, they
are certainly not going to be happy with marketers who stumble and do anything viewed as intrusive. –
Al McClain – Moderator