“Privacy is dead, get over it.” Former Sun chairman Scott McNealy, 1999
McNealy’s dark quip may not have been true in 1999. But since then, technologies to collect and manage vast amounts of data about where, when, and what we buy, watch, read, consume and how we spend our time, have become far more powerful and pervasive. Unless you’re a hermit living off the grid, search engines, financial businesses, advertisers, social media and government agencies know a lot about you.
Even if you’re not logged in, surfing the Web is not anonymous. For example, tracking cookies used by ad networks follow your browsing across web sites. Click on an ad on one web site and you may notice ads for the same product follow you as you surf to other sites. Depending on your browsing history, location and whatever else ad networks can infer about you, you may see different ads, offers, and prices.
Apps, whether on mobile devices or embedded in sites like Facebook, may be even more intrusive. Data about you may be revealed, not because of your actions but simply through your social network contacts.
Not all customers are aware or alarmed at how exposed they are – yet. However, a recent survey by Consumer’s Union indicated that a majority of those surveyed are “very concerned about” companies sharing and selling customer data. About 4 in 10 were concerned by personalized ads.
Some of those who are concerned, and they may be like your customers, haven’t “gotten over it.” They will want to something to reclaim their privacy. Firms such as Abine and Ghostery offer tools and services enabling them to do so. These tools reveal what information your organization’s Website is collecting about its visitors.
I’ve been testing these browser add-ons. They reveal a surprising amount of unobtrusive tracking activity. For example, visit CNBC.com and see that Abine’s PrivacySuite reveals 10 separate tracking firms.
Why give them an unpleasant surprise like this?