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BLOGLosing Trust with Creepy Tracking

by Randall CraigFiled in: Blog, Make It Happen Tipsheet, Trust

Have you visited a website recently, and then noticed that every advertisement relates to the website you had just visited? Or received an email that begins, “We saw that you left some items in your shopping cart on our website”?

Losing Trust with Creepy Tracking

Perhaps even worse is the notification that pops up on your phone from a retailer or service provider when you go to a particular location. Many people are completely unaware that many “loyalty” apps track your location, sometimes 24h/day, then send that information to data brokers, who cross-reference this with other data. They infer your home, work, where you buy your coffee, the restaurants you go to, and so on. And since this is done with zero visibility to you, each of us is completely in the dark as to who else our data is sold to, and what purpose is it being used for. Creepy tracking is today’s dirty little marketing secret.

Why should an organization do it, if it’s so creepy? From a corporate perspective, engaging in these practices has clear benefits: more efficient (and effective) ad buys, better understanding of prospect behavior, and higher sales. “Big Data” is so big because it contains everything about you!

While people are only now becoming aware of the creepy tracking that is happening. And when they eventually find out, there will be a steep loss of trust that will be just about impossible for brands to recover from.

There is some hope, however, that the current free-for-all “wild west” of data tracking may be coming to an end. Consider the relief which is coming from three important directions:

Regulators: Privacy regulators around the world are starting to recognize that data tracking must be subject to at least some degree of regulation. Some of the regulations are driven by a desire for data sovereignty, but many are focused on privacy and transparency.

Apple: While Facebook and Google are wholly dependent on ad revenues, and therefore have built “creepy” into the core of their Chrome browser, Search engine, and Social platforms, Apple is building in transparency and privacy. Given its ubiquity, Apple’s move will force Google and Facebook to modify its most egregious practices.

Consumers: Consumers are waking up that “free” services are not actually free: they have been unknowingly paying with their personal and private data. Whether they are spooked by media stories on creepy tracking, notice it themselves, or decide to “shut-down” as much tracking on their devices as they can, this will also have an impact on the practice.

This week’s action plan:

It’s time to do some detective work: what creepy tracking — if any — is your organization doing? Start with the web by looking at all of the trackers on your web site, then check whether there are any trackers in your organization’s apps. Finally, look to see if you are buying data from third-party data brokers. Once you know what type of creepy tracking you are doing, then you can take steps to remove it.

Creepy Tracking insight: Even if you don’t do creepy tracking yourself, you may still be funding it through deals with data brokers, purchases of targeted pay-per-click online ad buys, and retargeting. The cost of using these techniques is not just in dollars: you’re also paying with trust.

Related posts: Fourteen Digital Trust Killers

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