Mind Your Own eBusiness

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 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 status and tweeting and sharing pictures and information.

And the more the public becomes aware of their e-footprint, the more concerned they are with concealing it or eradicating it. According to Forrester Research, more than 50% 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 to legislation being 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 that 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 prevail 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 2011,

  • privacy legislation was introduced in U.S. Congress
  • In May 2011, the EU Cookie Law became active
  • In June 2011, the Dutch Cookie Law went even further than the EU ruling
  • In September 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 believe they can wait it out or get by complying with the bare minimum requirements, they are sorely mistaken. In the near future, there are sure to be rankings of companies and their e-privacy compliance, and no one will want to be at the bottom of that list.

    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.

    Another point to further elaborate on is that we have all heard the saying that presentation is key, and how you re-engineer the new privacy directives with the consumer experience will make all the difference. 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 have taken to protect their privacy and comply with online privacy directives.

    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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