4 Ways You Can Actually Protect Your Consumers

Modern consumers are afraid to share their personal data online because they are aware of the probable negative outcomes of allowing personal information to fall into the wrong hands. Their attitude towards behavioral targeting is significantly affecting their usual online purchasing behavior. Therefore, it has become important for the marketers to balance the advantages of behavioral advertising with the consumer privacy concerns. Consumers’ trust in the brands depends on how the marketers protect the privacy of their customers.

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This blog post talks about four effective strategies that the Internet marketers should use to protect the consumers from potential fraud and to influence the consumers’ online behavior.

1. Limited Data Collection and Retention: Personally Identifiable Data (i.e. name, age, address, locations, etc.) are more sensitive than Non-PII Data. However, once the PII or Non-PII data are stored on the websites, it is possible for the third parties to hack the storage and steal the info of the web surfers. Uncontrolled data collection can eventually expose the web surfer fully. Therefore, it has become obligatory for the marketers to have full control over their PII and Non-PII data collection process of behavioral tracking.

Marketers should also retain the collected data for the shortest time possible. They must not keep the data that they do not need for their behavioral targeting purpose. Retaining those data for an extended period can significantly increase the risk of fraudulent activities. Federal Trade Commission stated that businesses should not keep any data that is no longer needed in to fulfill a legitimate business or law enforcement need.

2. Increasing Websites’ Security: It is important for the companies to increase their websites’ security to prevent the harms associated with BT. Customers are likely to share their information more on those sites that have strong built-in security systems. For instance, SSL encryption is a security system that the companies can implement while collecting sensitive consumer data online. Sensitive data can include credit card number, Social Security number, personal health information, Tax ID numbers, and bank information such as routing number and account number.

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This privacy measure can help them avoid common encryption mishaps, such as failing to encrypt login or password retrieval web pages. There are other security measures that they should implement to increase their websites’ security, such as: keeping scripts updated, imposing robust password policy, using a secure domain and host, and scan the sites regularly to check server vulnerabilities.

3. Increase Consumer Awareness for Behavioral Targeting: One of the biggest challenges for the behavioral profilers is educating their customers about it, and helping them understand what it is all about. Lack of awareness about behavioral tracking technologies and tools are making the customers more distrustful of this approach of online advertising. A study conducted by TRUSTe and TNS (2009, p. 8) reported, “Three-quarters of consumers say they know how to protect their personal information online, yet 39% admit that they do not consistently take the necessary steps to do so.”

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Customers should be aware of the usage of their data and be familiar with the tools that they can utilize to keep their information secure. A majority of consumers feel comfortable with online behavioral advertising when they receive relevant, quality, free and tailored ads or online content. Content strategists should educate the consumers about the benefits and usage of BT technologies to explain them the win-win situation for both marketers and customers. When customers will understand the benefits they are going to receive by using BT tools, it would be easier for them to consider sharing their Non-PII data on the web.

4. Being More Transparent: Marketers should be more open about their behavioral tracking activities. This study encourages the development of creative and effective disclosure mechanisms that are separate from the companies’ privacy policies. Recent researches showed that customers do not mind being tracked by Amazon because they trust Amazon; they know that Amazon is collecting their data and that data will be used to provide a better experience on the site and also to provide customers with timely and relevant offers from Amazon. This note suggests that company that wants to engage in behavioral targeting needs first to build trust with the consumers before they start targeting them.

Companies should also ask for informed consent on their websites from the customers. FTC’s online behavioral advertising guidelines strongly emphasized on transparency and consumer control. It requires websites that collect behavioral advertising data to:

(1) State that they are doing so and (2) allow consumers to opt out of this collection. It also requires behavioral advertisers who collect data outside the “traditional website context” to “develop alternative methods of disclosure and consumer choice that meet the standards described above.”

Understanding the privacy policies of a website help the users take the informed decision. Marketers should make their privacy policies and opt-out options appear clearly on their sites. The words and sentence structures of that policy statement should be straightforward, concise, clear and noticeable. Web sites should notify the user every time it is attempting to capture the Non-PII data.

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