Privacy and Politics

Privacy.

It’s a hot-button political issue with voters which means anyone running a voter outreach campaign with a website – and who isn’t? – needs to know about changes and potential changes in the law.

First up, the state of California which on Jan. 1, 2014 started requiring websites to tell visitors how they handled  requests by consumers not to be tracked. Sounds like something for Amazon to worry about right?

Wrong.

If your online ad vendors retarget – send ads to folks who have visited your site – if they drop cookies – collect information about visitors for ad placements or if you plan to do any of these things, the law says you have to tell folks you’re doing it and how they can opt out.

As a result, you’ve almost certainly noticed that some website you’re visiting have added little “about cookies” (or similar information notices) to their sites. They’re complying with existing law and- smartly – they’re looking ahead to changes in federal law.

All the news about listening to phone calls, collecting metadata, following Internet traffic between large companies like Yahoo, Amazon, Google and eBay has consumers – those would be voters every November – nervous. Congress, too.

Consumers can see re-targeting when they surf the web. Collection of metadata? Eh. Invisible for the most part. That’s why the Direct Marketing Association got a little hot under the collar at some sections of Obama’s speech. They see what’s coming.

President Obama’s indication that he will revisit certain aspects of the laws governing how and what information the government can collect is creating an interesting convergence. It’s hard for many people to see the difference between government metadata collection, ad re-targeting and Target letting hackers get their credit card information. The political implications are starting to pile up.

A number of pieces of consumer protection legislation are lingering in Congress. It’s not hard to see how they’re merged in to national security bills to create a new set of online rules for everyone to follow. And yeah, this can certainly happen by 2016.

Bottom line: It’s probably not a bad idea to anticipate that cookie-matching technology, much loved for its supposed ability to find specific kinds of voters, is not long for the online world as it’s currently deployed. Retargeting is headed to the same fate.

Smart campaigns will already have privacy notices on their website. And farsighted consultants and vendors aren’t counting on quick-and-easy online tracking for too much longer. More questions? Spot-On can offer you alternatives that are safe, inexpensive and reliable. Give us a shout.