Google’s Privacy Policy under Attack again

But there are even bigger issues in this growing battle of Privacy vs. Data Mining.

Privacy Issues and Concerns onlineBrazil’s Justice Minister is pressing Google for details on how it handles users’ personal information under its new Privacy Policy. This type of scrutiny and concern by National Governments is nothing new to Google, as European regulators continue to aggressively pursue Google on Privacy Issues.

But its not just Google that is in the crosshairs of both legislators and users over Privacy issues. Social Media sites, including mega-leader Facebook, have repeatedly coming under attack for crossing the line.  Stories of inadvertently “outing” pregnancies and engagement, based on user’s digital behaviour, continue to make headlines. Sometimes the results are even more serious, even resulting in personal harm when political affiliations are inadvertently revealed.

Why is this a growing issue?

Because of the digital nature of the Internet, and the advent of tracking cookies, each online user journey and each touch-point leaves a unique digital footprint. Some users chose to “opt-out”, by adjusting their browser setting to eliminate the presence of (most) cookies. Others, myself included, recognize that cookies provide them with a better user experience, allowing the storing of preferences and improved communication through personalization.

For online marketers, the opportunity of mining that data for corporate gain is too tempting, and sometimes they cross the “creepiness” line. Digital tracking becomes digital stalking. And Governments have an obligation to step in and protect the mostly unwary public.

Beyond these broad industry implications, individual corporations that cross the creepiness line will damage their reputations and their trust factor. Trust is critical in the online world, and, once damaged, extremely difficult to repair.

Which side will win?

Privacy Advocates or Corporations? Only time will tell. But if corporations continue to step over the “creepiness” line, and continue to disregard legitimate privacy concerns, then everyone on the Internet will lose in the end. The efficiencies and advantages of true 1:1 marketing and sales, beneficial to both companies and customers, will never be realized.

How to stay onside and maintain your customer’s trust

If you are wondering where to draw the line on Privacy vs. Personalization in your organization, here are ePath’s recommendations:

  1. Implement a comprehensive, transparent, best-of-class Privacy Policy. The Canadian Govt provides a wonderful tool to help shape your policy. Promote this policy, don’t hide it. Make it a point of positive differentiation.
  2. Ensure that all your online data partners share this policy. The weakest link sets the standard.
  3. Clearly and actively communicate the benefits of tracking to your users, including personalization, better service, and greater efficiencies.
  4. Make it easy for users to “opt-out” and honour their opt-outs promptly
  5. And, at all cost, resist crossing the “creepiness” line.

Until next time – Axel