The growing momentum in the use of profiles to target web and email audiences brings with it a growing concern over consumer privacy.
At the same time, InfoBeat, a web newsletter service owned by Sony Music, revealed that potential leakage of email addresses to advertisers had been found and corrected.
By coincidence, these stories broke near the time the FTC conducted hearings in which privacy advocates asked the government to ban Internet customer profiling and a coalition of advertising companies, including DoubleClick and Engage, announced the adoption of policies to disclose what information is collected and inform consumers on how to stop being profiled.
Stories like these make it appear that web users don’t want to be profiled; however, a study funded by DoubleClick that was released at the FTC hearings indicates that most consumers approve of the use of profiles to personalize web content and banners IF they are informed beforehand about how their data will be used.
A spot check of the privacy policies at a few high-traffic sites showed that most sites mention that third-party ad servers may be collecting profile data. One of the clearest is at Lycos, which includes the phrase “third party advertising networks may issue cookies when serving advertisements,” and it goes into detail about other tracking and profiling activities.
- Have you started storing user IDs in cookies?
- Do you participate in an affiliate program that tracks users who go to another site?
- Does your site link to an outsourced shopping cart or other e-commerce site?
- Are you linking to an outside, personalized email service that captures profile data on your behalf?
- Is a banner ad service used that tracks users across sites??
These are just a few of the ways that web marketers are expanding the capabilities of their site by collecting profiles and using outside services, so be sure to take a look at all of the ways that user data is collected.
Having a one-to-one relationship with web visitors and customers should be based on knowing and trusting each other. What better way to earn that trust than to have no surprises this Christmas season regarding your use of customer profiles to improve the web experience.