Nearly everyone who uses a digital device, such as computers, tablets, mobile phones and cable TV, should understand they are likely not alone when they use their device. Websites, mobile apps, Internet service providers, telecommunication firms and many more businesses have, at one level or another, the ability to track what people do when interacting with their service.
Of course, from a marketing perspective, tracking how visitors interact with websites, apps, cable boxes, and the like, offers some of the best information available on customer buying behavior, the effectiveness of marketing promotions, payment methods and many other marketing issues. Marketers foam at the mouth with amount and quality of information that can be obtained and, even better, allow marketers to alter their marketing approach. For instance, tracking information enables marketers to adjust website content, so it is more likely to appeal to a visitor’s interests. Tracking data enables marketers to engage in remarketing promotions that follow someone from one website to another. And tracking can tell marketers when to send out product reminders by email or text at times that are predicted to be when the customer is most likely to go online to shop.
While marketers love tracking, privacy advocates have lambasted it. They consider tracking an encroachment on personal privacy, especially because privacy advocates believe most people are unaware they are being tracked.
The issue with tracking is not new. In the U.S., many have complained and have called for the U.S. Federal government to intervene. One of the biggest complaints involves the need for digital companies to offer a “do-not-track” option that would block users’ activity from being tracked. Moreover, such “do-not-track” would be recognized by all companies engaged in tracking, so users could opt-out of all tracking by completing one form.
However, despite years of calls by privacy groups for curbs on tracking, this issue has lingered with little headway being gained, especially when it comes to the “do-not-track” issue. In fact, as discussed in this Washington Post story, the U.S. Federal Communication Commission has decided not to move aggressively to enforce digital services to comply with “do-to-track” requests.
As expected, the decision has been met with distain by privacy advocates, who fear tracking will only become more intrusive. Whether that is the case remains to be seen, but for now many digital marketers are likely feeling more empowered. Consequently, users of digital devices should expect tracking to become even more embedded in their digital experience.
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