More articles by Angus Glover Wilson
Mind Your Own eBusiness
ADOTAS – Getting some privacy used to be as simple as locking your door or finding a nice, quiet spot somewhere. Keeping your information private was as simple as putting it away in a locked drawer or safe. Well, those days are long gone, and many consumers are not happy about it.
The Information Age has quickly become the Information Sharing Age, where people are willing and able to share everything they do at any given moment by constantly updating their Facebook statuses, Tweeting both random thoughts and daily happenings, and sharing pictures and information on their whereabouts. You would think that with everyone being so open about their lives, privacy would be an afterthought. But the more the public becomes aware of their e-footprint, the more concerned they are with concealing it or eradicating it altogether. According to Forrester research, more than 50 percent of consumers are aware that they are being tracked and that their information may have been purchased for marketing purposes.
E-privacy concerns are a big deal, and we are getting closer and closer to legislation getting passed in the U.S. that would give consumers more control over how their internet activity is tracked and shared. This, of course, is not good news for advertisers and publishers who utilize this information to better serve their customers and/or readers. Truth be told, it’s not good for consumers either, but “Big Brother” paranoia seems to be prevailing over a more efficient advertising market. After all, opting out does not mean the user will no longer receive online advertising, it just means the advertising won’t be targeted specifically for them. Like it or not, here is where we currently stand:
• In April of 2011, privacy legislation was introduced in U.S. Congress.
• In May of 2011, the E.U. Cookie Law became active.
• In June of 2011, the Dutch Cookie Law went even further than the E.U. ruling.
• In September of 2011, the Do Not Track option was implemented in Firefox.
Over the next few years, more privacy laws will likely be passed and existing ones refined, and the e-privacy debate and discrepancy over interpretation of the laws will likely continue. However, if companies think they can wait it out or get by complying with the bare minimum requirements, they’re sorely mistaken. In the near future, there’s sure to be rankings of companies and their e-privacy compliance, and no one will want to be at the bottom of that list. If customers see that you’re not as transparent or your compliance is not at least on par with other companies, they will take their business elsewhere.
Forrester Research recently offered some tips and steps you should start on now to help you stay ahead of the game:
• Audit all cookies and tags on your site.
• Categorize your cookies and tags, and know what each of them do.
• Figure out how you will communicate your compliance measures to users (transparency is key).
• Listen to the press and what consumers are saying in order to avoid a crisis.
• Document every step you take in order to build your case.
• Aggregate the data you have on a customer into one user interface.
• Push for logged-in approaches to overcome cookie limitations
• Test your revised on-site approaches using A/B comparisons.
The first thing to note about these tips is the need for a cookie and tag audit. Ultimately, companies’ third party marketing tags are the site-side elements that control cookies and tracking for marketing campaigns. Having control of these tags is crucial to comply with any privacy laws, guidelines or regulations worldwide. Companies specializing in tag management can be a great help for anyone looking to understand which tags exist across your site, and can help you proactively manage compliance for all of your ePrivacy requirements.
Another point to further elaborate on is that we’ve all heard the saying presentation is key, and how you re-engineer the new privacy directives with the consumer experience will make all the difference. The days of eight-point font disclaimers at the bottom of a webpage are gone. Communicate and engage with consumers in an elegant way. Clearly present them with information on their opt out, do not track, private browsing and cookie blocking options. Explain how it will affect their online experience. Graphically showcase the measures and steps you’ve taken to protect their privacy and comply with online privacy directives.
Obviously, there will be a grace period to implement new privacy laws, but isn’t it better to be proactive rather than reactive? Position yourself to be a top player by taking some steps now to help prepare you for what is inevitably coming down the pipeline.
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