Exploring Internet privacy issues with The Webby Award’s Webby Talks World Tour

The Webby Talks World Tour is currently traveling to more than 100 ad agencies, tech companies and media companies around the globe to share the latest trends in all things digital. Designed to provoke and inspire, the talks highlight the ever-changing landscape of what is happening online.

The Webby Talks Tour is put on by The Webby Awards, the leading international award for digital excellence. On Monday Jeff Zemetis, a Senior Producer at Webby, stopped by the Doejo offices for a talk entitled “Cookies and Controversy” where he discussed privacy issues on the Internet.

Here is how the Webby team predicts privacy issues will affect the future of the Internet:

Potential problems from shared information

Privacy has become a huge issue on the Internet and cookies (small pieces of information written to the hard drive of a user when he or she visits a site) are to blame. They remember data, make recommendations and trace locations through IP addresses. These cookies use voluntarily shared information in unexpected ways, creating potential problems for the consumer. 

When you take trivial personal data and combine it with data from a large group businesses learn personal information that you may not want to share. To highlight this point, Zemetis shared the frightening story of how Target figured out a teen girl was pregnant before her father did based on her purchase history.

How user funnels influence user experience

This is not just happening with in store purchases. Today user data is found even before the homepage loads. Zemetis mentioned BlueKai, a data exchange that boosts the quality of targeted online advertising. Sites like BlueKai help to put users into funnels: now when a user loads sites they’ll find a unique homepage based on their presumed interests. This personalization is offering radically different experiences for each user, putting premeditated content in front of our eyes.

Zemetis said this kind of data is frequently used in political campaigns to determine when to hit voters with mailers and how hard to hit them. This data is also helpful when trying to cater content and messaging to specific users. Using this data in conjunction with social connections provides businesses with access to your real name, helping them build a robust user profile.

Be aware of customer sensitivity towards their personal data

According to Zemetis, the most successful companies will be the ones that analyze data without freaking out the consumer. Businesses should always be aware of the customer’s sensitivity towards their personal data. Although this type of data is very prevalent, it is important that businesses do not hit the users over the head with it. This type of data should be used to stretch your consumer’s expectations though communication, not scare them away.

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