Marketers Freak Out About Mandates To Make Clickstream Tracking Opt-In Only

from the but-what-about-our-data? dept

With all of the fuss finally being raised concerning clickstream tracking by companies like Phorm and NebuAd, there's an effort underway to force ISPs to make any such tracking strictly opt-in. That is, users would have to proactively agree to allow their data to be used in this manner. In response, various marketers are complaining about how much data they would lose, claiming it would be an "armageddon" for the industry. Don't believe them. This is the same thing marketers warned about when the US instituted a "Do Not Call" system, and it's hardly decimated the marketing industry. Instead, it's improved marketing by making firms focus less on intrusive telemarketing and more on useful marketing. The same would happen if ISPs were required to make this an opt-in instead of opt-out setup. It would force the ISPs and companies like Phorm to make sure that the services really benefited customers in meaningful and noticeable ways so that customers would be happy to make use of the services. By whining about an opt-in solution, all these firms are really admitting is that they do not add value to the surfing experience of users.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    some old fool, May 7th, 2008 @ 5:31pm

    Dont listen to marketers?

    Your advice is to not listen to marketers? That surely is sage advice, but it's not quite limited to just this context.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Alex, May 7th, 2008 @ 5:48pm

    The reason that do-not-call lists haven't ruined the telemarketing industry is that telemarketers have largely ignored the lists ;)

    "hi, we're conducting a survey: do you want to buy a kitchen from us?"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2008 @ 5:50pm

    Re: Dont listen to marketers?

    ".. but it's not quite limited to just this context."

    Oh but only if it were would the world be a better place. Not much, but enough.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Norm, May 7th, 2008 @ 5:56pm

    Opt-In for money

    Why don't the ISPs just subsidize the tracking by offering a slightly lower price for customers who opt-in? This would result in an incentive to participate for customers. The customers that do opt-in are more useful (like the "Do NOt Call" example). It would even allow for the tracking companies to slightly raise their margins to compensate for the loss of tracking. It essentially converts the questionable-at-best practice of opt-out tracking to a service provided to the customers by the ISPs for the tracking companies.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 7th, 2008 @ 6:14pm

    Luke, It's a trap !

    Even if it were opt-in and you do not agree to be tracked, does anyone believe they will not be tracked ?
    I trust these slimeballs as far as I can throw a piano.
    This sort of thing is presently illegal and should remain that way.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Hoeppner, May 7th, 2008 @ 6:15pm

    You are of course forced to opt-in via this size 4 font in section-5A part B sub section X. Otherwise your tubes will not be filled with stuff from our dump truck station.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Porkster, May 7th, 2008 @ 7:16pm

    Re: Opt-In for money

    Sweet! charge for not getting tracked. while you at it you should also charge for not gettting the newsletters, not getting the sales sms and oh yes twice the price if your blocking ads.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Overcast, May 7th, 2008 @ 10:23pm

    "Phorm works by taking a copy of the traffic generated when a users visits a web site, analyzes the text in this traffic and then uses the resulting information to insert targeted ads on sites that have signed up. Phorm responded in a statement to the allegations and said that it complies with 'all the appropriate U.K. laws.'"

    So - sounds to me like people can put up tons of hidden text on websites and just confuse it.

    I'm sure there will be an ad-block equivalent, or just blocking their subnets entirely might work too.

    They can do it if they want - and I can ignore ads too. I don't mind checking advertisements, but just because I'm searching for information on say... Tennis, doesn't mean I want to buy a racket.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Trevlac, May 8th, 2008 @ 12:50am

    This scared me at first. When you mentioned "clickstream" I thought of the company I'm heading a sub-site for called Clickstream TV. DON'T DO THAT, MIKE. GEEZE!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Jake, May 8th, 2008 @ 1:44am

    Re: Spoofing Phorm

    The handy little widget you can download from would probably help; it routes you through a randomly-assigned proxy every time you click a link or refresh your browser, so it'll stop them forming any sort of profile on you.
    And I stand by my earlier assertion that an easy-to-perform opt-out is perfectly adequate; I shan't trot out the tired old cliche, "If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear," but I've yet to hear anyone explain exactly how one's browsing history might be used by a third party for nefarious purposes. Besides, doesn't personal responsibility come into this? Anyone too lazy and/or ignorant to bother searching the 'Preferences' tab for a clearly-marked box and un-checking it deserves what they get as far as I'm concerned.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Ferin, May 8th, 2008 @ 4:51am

    Look at it from their point of view

    I think people aren't considering the view point of a marketing person, beyond the idea that they want mroe money. For years people have complained about being marketed stuff they don;t want or need, or about how ads they see aren't relevant or interesting. In a sense, this type of data collection was an attempt to solve that problem(and yes, make them a lot of money, I'm trying to be a little less cynical). I think on some level this could be an honest attempt to improve the product they're offering. Obviously it's not a great way to go about it, but perhaps that mindset could be leveraged to look for other ways to acheive their goals.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 8th, 2008 @ 4:55am

    It is Armageddon, just like the do not call list

    This opt-in would be and the do not call list is Armageddon for the marketing industry. The current industry state is that large amounts of relatively easy money are made on a garbage quality product. This opt-in, like the do not call list, would change the situation such that the marketing companies would make less money, working harder, delivering an higher quality product. This is difficult for the marketing industry to accept. Remember, the computer user is the product being sold, not the customer. The customer is the mega-corp purchasing marketing data. Sort of an "internal" outsourcing, so to speak. Thus, marketing firms would be fewer, slimmer and more productive. Why, marketing company managers may actually have to manage their company, in order to make a sellable product!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Shill Bait, May 8th, 2008 @ 6:47am

    Astro Turf ?

    #10: 1) "opt-out is perfectly adequate"
    2) "exactly how one's browsing history might be used by a third party for nefarious purposes"
    3) "clearly-marked box and un-checking it"

    1) The only perfectly adequate opt out would be to cancel your ISP account.
    2) I doesn't matter what they say their intentions are, it will be abused.
    3) What ? Maybe you do not understand how they collect data.

    #11: "I think people aren't considering the view point of a marketing person"

    Yes, lets all feel sorry for the marketing folks - awwwww.
    Get real. Go monitize elsewhere.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. icon
    Steve R. (profile), May 8th, 2008 @ 7:46am

    The Data Has Value So ...

    If the data is so valuable, we should get a royalty for its use. If marketers have the technology and money to tract down our addresses and send us junk mail, surly they could enclose a nice little check!!!

    Anyway, this is always amusing. If we attempt to use their "content" in a manner that they do not like (copying a music file from the PC to a CD) we are "stealing". But if they collect our data and privatize it to make money for themselves that conveniently isn't "stealing". Hypocrites.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    John Kahler, May 8th, 2008 @ 9:05am

    Opt in - absolutely, and enforcement, too

    Forget opt-out unless it's basically universal like do not call. Opt in works fine, I'm happy to let the supermarkets I frequent track my shopping. In return, I get targeted mailings letting me know about stuff I buy when it's on sale, discounts that require the card, a shopping list online that I can use to place orders for delivery (though I usually go to the store), even frequent flyer miles. And if I don't want to be tracked, I don't use my card. Works for me.

    Do not call, at least in Pennsylvania, works really well. Report violations to the attorney general's office, they follow up and it sure seems like there's very little junk calls compared to what it used to be. Marketers are catching on - even got the cable company I'm stuck with to stop calling to sell me stuff when I complained to the telemarketer, though the do not call laws let them call when they have a "relationship."

    I appreciate marketing, and the marketers who let me choose on my terms, for my needs, get my business.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Katie Butler, May 8th, 2008 @ 11:19am

    We've been successful with opt-in tracking

    ClickStream Technologies has been conducting opt-in data collection studies of browser and software use since 2003 with much success. We find that, when fully informed and fairly compensated, people are happy to represent thousands of computer users and help improve the applications and website they use every day.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    BadPhormula, May 10th, 2008 @ 5:58am

    Re: Re: Opt-In for money


    Then I would be considered a ransom, and the ISP would be a highway man. Didn't we used to hang scum like these in the UK?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    badphormula, May 10th, 2008 @ 6:01am

    Re: Re: Re: Opt-In for money


    Then I = Then it

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Tom Truth, Jun 19th, 2008 @ 3:15am

    Not interested in advertisements

    I don't need some slimey scammer in a dark basement somewhere deciding that I am interested in some arbitary product hawked by some company that is probably in the practice of employing botnet operators to flood my inbox with spam. I block all the ads I possibly can using a combination of firefox extensions and domain & IP range blocking at my firewall.

    I am an intelligent person who knows where to look for what I need when shopping both on and offline. You can put your ads back into the dark hole from which they emanated.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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