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December 3, 2007

I don’t normally write posts outside my main subject but because I’ve experience in software associated with data collection, I thought I’d write on the current uproar over Facebook and the way they collect data with Beacon (Enables advertisers/customers to share the actions they take on your website with their Facebook friends). Companies have been collecting data on people and buying habits since advertising began and the data is collected in many different ways including on the Internet, it just happens that the Net is a great place to garner excellent data across many different places and the Net gets a lot of attention and it gets it quickly – so if you’re a big named company and your doing something wrong you are going to get noticed.

While many people are aware that data is being collected on them as they travel from site to site, they don’t know what is accumulated and cross-pollinated, sold and packaged for advertisers. Individuals do not know of the relationships that companies have with one another and how their data is shared. When they find out, they get angry – remember the privacy concerns back in 2000 with DoubleClick? Now just think about what would happen if the public was aware of the relationship that DoubleClick has today with many advertisers – just look at the one they have with Paypal – when you go to the Paypal site and hit the button for the Paypal plus credit card, you actually go to the DoubleClick web site. Now, if you use Paypal, ask yourself what kind of information about you they have – how’s everything sound to you? Not only do they know what you buy, but they have your bank account #, credit card #s, address, social security #, phone numbers, etc. etc, etc. – now put that together with DoubleClick and you have a WOW!!!!

The issue here is how companies go about collecting data.  The question is do you need to be sneaky about it or can you just ask for permission?

I was involved in one of the early personalization/privacy companies (YOUpowered) some years back and we recognized early that people were concerned about their privacy but if you asked for permission to get this data they frequently said yes. What a concept “Ask and you may receive” – just a thought.

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