Home | Web Tracking | Tips for ruining your brand: trick your customers and prospects with deceptive web tracking techniques

Tips for ruining your brand: trick your customers and prospects with deceptive web tracking techniques

We know first-hand that it is very helpful that marketing automation solutions can give companies insight into their customers' and prospects' interactions with your emails and web sites. But when do you cross the line between gaining sales advantage and invading individuals' right to privacy? This post will tell you about how some sites may be tracking you even if you have taken the steps necessary to avoid tracking. It will also help you answer the question as to what you consider to be right and wrong when it comes to web tracking.

Transparency and Disclosure

We think it all comes down to transparency and disclosure. In other words, whatever you decide to do in terms of tracking, be clear about it so those who it makes uncomfortable can decide whether to visit your site and those who visit your site will understand how they are being tracked and what will happen to any data they provide. Your privacy policy should disclose the tracking techniques you use, how to avoid being tracked and what you will do with the data you collect. In building trust with prospects and customers there should be no deception or surprises.

If you read the ClickDimensions privacy policy you will see that we very clearly state how our web tracking works. We also educate visitors on how to avoid our web tracking as well as how we use the information we gather. Further, our privacy policy also includes a helpful white paper we have created to inform consumers about the various ways web tracking can be done. When you read our privacy policy and white paper you will see that the tracking techniques used by the ClickDimensions solution employ only browser tracking techniques that many web browser users are aware of and that can be managed directly within the web browser.

Flash Tracking

In our privacy white paper we discuss how it is possible to hide tracking information about a web visitor in their computer's Adobe Flash player. The concept is simple; most computers have the Flash player installed, the Flash player has a storage area (called Local Shared Objects – meant for things like volume preferences) and most people are not aware that data can be stored there. This means that sites can hide data about you in the Flash player and you most likely will not know it is there or how to remove it. Sites sometimes do this so that they can rebuild your browser cookies when you decide to delete them to avoid tracking. The technique is called 're-spawning' and, unless it is done with explicit consent, is a gross invasion of your right to privacy. ClickDimensions and the mega vendors in the marketing automation space (Eloqua, Marketo, Pardot, etc.) do not hide tracking data about you in your Flash player. The brands we serve more often than not disclose their tracking techniques in their privacy policies and would not want to write a privacy policy that admits to this type of tracking. Further, the Adobe terms of service explicitly prohibit the use of the flash player for web tracking in this manner.

Flash tracking is sometimes used by login sites that contain a clear 'remember me' link and disclose the use of Flash tracking in their privacy policy. A site using Flash tracking in this way can make the argument that they have gained your explicit consent to remember you by asking you to click the 'remember me' link which ideally would be near a link to their privacy policy. However, for a non-login site to store tracking information about you outside the browser and not disclose it creates a brand/perception risk that is not acceptable.

If you are curious about which sites/vendors are storing data about you in your Flash player you can access your Flash player storage area by visiting this URL http://www.macromedia.com/support/documentation/en/flashplayer/help/settings_manager07.html. Keep in mind that some of the names you see have disclosed their user of Flash tracking, others are simply using it for its intended purpose (i.e. volume and other preferences) and still others are just using it to trick you. If you use the Google Chrome browser you may have even noticed that they include a link to the Flash player storage area on their browsing data screen. Google recognized that the Flash storage is being used for tracking and is making its users aware of this.

Conclusions

Ask yourself a few questions. Would your web site visitors expect you to hide data about them outside the browser when they visit your site? Would you feel comfortable disclosing the use of Flash tracking in your web site privacy policy? How do you think your visitors would feel if they read this post and then realized that your site has been tracking them in ways they were not aware were possible?

Organizations that care about the perception of their brand in the market will disclose everything they are doing with customer and prospect data and will not engage in techniques that could be seen as deceptive. Organizations that actively seek to trick their visitors, or do so by not educating themselves on the technologies employed by their vendors, are at risk of losing the trust of their customers and prospects.

2017-05-16T18:24:49+00:00 By |Web Tracking|0 Comments

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The ClickDimensions marketing team is committed to helping marketers using Microsoft Dynamics 365 achieve their goals.

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