Disturbing Article in Today’s WSJ

I received a news alert from The Wall Street Journal this morning that caused me pause titled “On the Web’s Cutting Edge, Anonymity in Name Only.

The article discusses a Wall Street Journal investigation into online privacy that has found that the analytical skill of data handling companies is transforming the Internet into a place where people are becoming anonymous in name only. The findings offer an early glimpse of a new, personalized Internet where sites have the ability to adjust many things—look, content, prices—based on the kind of person they think you are.

Firms like [x+1] Inc. tap into vast databases of people’s online behavior—mainly gathered surreptitiously by tracking technologies that have become ubiquitous on websites across the Internet. They don’t have people’s names, but cross-reference that data with records of home ownership, family income, marital status and favorite restaurants, among other things. Then, using statistical analysis, they start to make assumptions about the proclivities of individual Web surfers.

A local Richmond, VA firm – Capital One – is mentioned in the article as a user of this technology, and while I love many things about the idea of making my online experience better, doing so without my permission is unacceptable behavior (as I would tell my kids). The world of neuromarketing is fascinating and not too far away from mainstream – a great book on the topic is Neuromarketing: Understanding the Buy Buttons in Your Customer’s Brain by Patrick Renvoise & Christophe Morin – but it still offers me choice. If someone is peaking in to my online activities without me agreeing to let them do so, do I really have a choice. I think not – what do you think.

About Mark Deutsch

Small Business Sales & Marketing Expert | Best Selling Author | Speaker | Trainer | Disruptive Idea Creator
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3 Responses to Disturbing Article in Today’s WSJ

  1. Jason Moreau says:

    Mark,

    Interesting post. But I must disagree. As mentioned in the sidebar to the article, every modern web browser has privacy settings that can be set to limit or entirely block the tracking cookies used to gather information. If you don’t adjust the settings, you are implicitly agreeing to the data gathering policies of the sites you visit. However, it is the burden of the website to clearly communicate their policy to the user. As long as the sites have a privacy policy written in plain English and not ‘legalese’ I don’t see a problem.

    Side note: Since this issue hinges on transparency and communication, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that it’s now considered good blogging etiquette to disclose affiliate links 😉

    • mmdmba says:

      Jason,

      Thanks for the comment. Since I’m somewhat new to the blogosphere – thoughts on how to disclose affiliate links? Thanks again for your comment.

      • Jason Moreau says:

        Most people seem to fall into one of two camps. One, a site wide disclaimer link (usually in the footer) that takes you to a page explaining your policy on affiliate links. Or two, an inline disclaimer in parenthesis. Something as simple as:

        Hypertext Link (affiliate link)

        Hope this helps. Keep up the good work. I look forward to the next post.

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