UPDATED: WSJ Network Revises Privacy Policy to Connect PII With Browsing Data


ADOTAS – Oh this is too delicious — in an article published last night on its Digits tech blog, The Wall Street Journal company announced websites in its Wall Street Journal Digital Network will connect personally identifiable information with browsing data to provide more customized content for users. The company claims it will not be used for targeted advertising purposes (read the update below). Data to be collected includes mobile device IDs, which WSJ says it only shares with companies providing internal analytics.

UPDATED: WSJ reached out and highlighted this paragraph from their privacy policy: We will not sell, rent, or share your Personal Information with these third parties for such parties’ own marketing purposes, unless you choose in advance to have your Personal Information shared for this purpose. I asked for clarification on whether the network would use the combined PII/browsing data in segmenting audiences (anonymously) for selling targeted advertising. The response: “We do not use PII to serve online advertising, and this has not changed with the release of the updated policy.” Clarification denied!

The change — which applies to WSJ.com, Marketwatch.com, AllthingsD.com, Barrons.com and SmartMoney.com — from seeking “express affirmative consent” (lawyer-speak for “opt-in”) only applies to new registered users and subscribers. The updated privacy policy includes additional details about tracking practices as well as links for opting out of third-party tracking. The Journal does rent out its print subscriber list, but not its online one.

According to the article and WSJ Digital Network General Manager Alisa Bown, it’s all about consistency across the board: The change “allows us to be consistent with how we handle privacy across our network of sites, it makes our policy easier to understand and use, and it ensures our practices are consistent with the way we are evolving to better meet the needs of our users.”

It’s a bit of an ironic announcement considering WSJ’s “What They Know” series about online data collection practices, which has been raising all kinds of paranoia about web tracking through the kind of sensational journalism that made News Corp. charirman Rupert Murdoch a rich, rich man.

In particular, reporters set their sites on data company Rapleaf, which builds targeting profiles using names and email addresses (that are not shared with the advertisers). The series, which for the most part I’ve detested for trying to raise controversy without clear explaining how tracking and targeting technologies operate, actually had several insightful articles related to mobile IDs — in particular, mobile apps sending UDIDs to third parties without user consent.

To make it clear, I’m not condemning the move or trying to spread paranoia about WSJ’s tracking/data-gathering practices. I applaud WSJ for being so transparent not only in its privacy policy (which is very easy to navigate and read) but also on its sites.

Considering that some sites on the network are subscription-based, connecting PII and browsing data may be the optimum way for WSJ to sell inventory for targeting. Data collected using mobile UDIDs will likely be advantageous for internal analytics concerning mobile content consumption.

I’m just reporting the news — with a smirk on my face I can’t get rid of.



  1. […] WSJ Network Revises Privacy Policy to Connect PII With Browsing DataADOTASThe change — which applies to WSJ.com, Marketwatch.com, AllthingsD.com, Barrons.com and SmartMoney.com – from seeking “express affirmative consent” (lawyer-speak for “opt-in”) only applies to new registered users and subscribers. …Wall Street Journal Revises Its Privacy PolicyWall Street Journal (blog)Wall Street Journal Amends Privacy PolicyReputation Management (blog)The Wall Street Journal's New Privacy Policy Is Everything They Taught Us to FearNew York Magazineall 7 news articles » […]


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