Friday, 2 November 2007

'Anonymisation' threatens retailers who want to monitor online brand performance

Brand Killer Robots reveal::
When someone visits your shop, do you have a right to know who they are?

Do you have a right to at least know which city they came from, what interested them enough to walk in the door, what other shops they visited prior to yours and how did they find you? Don't you want to know what kinds of things they were looking at in your shop and how frequently they touched them? Don't you want to know these things because they could help you improve your service to them? Is it too much to ask for and is it really a breach of personal privacy for consumers to be asked to divulge this much information to online retailers? After all, they are not being asked for name and address; just some fringe details to help the retailer improve their service to you, in return for 24*7 access to the pages on their website.

So what would happen if much of this information were not available to businesses? Or worse still, subverted in some way? What would happen if you could never really tell if there was anyone in your shop? Perhaps you could see that products were being viewed, but never really knew if the viewer was a returning customer or a new visitor. Perhaps your site log recorded 20 new visitors today from all around the world, when in fact it really only represented 1 returing visitor from Barcelona. How confident would you be that you were operating in a market based on reality? How about a situation where some of your site visitors leave excellent footprints, but the other half leave footprints based on lies and fabrication? How do you tell the clean market research data from the dirty?

Well in a bid to protect user privacy 'Hacktivismo' - an international coalition of hackers, human rights workers, lawyers and artists, has announced the launch of 'Torpark' a web browser designed to browse the web anonymously. 'Torpar' users the Tor network which regularly changes the net address that someone appears to be browsing from - frustrating any attempt to pin a particular browsing session on any individual.

'Torpark' presents a significant threat to online business as it threatens to undermine confidence and trust in the growing online retail marketplace.

One has to ask, is it right that a small group of hackers be allowed to impose such a heavy burden upon the prosperity of the Net? Surely the best way is to get a healthy balance between openness and privacy. One has to further ask, why those who invest most in consumer privacy protection, seem to emanate from secretive groups, like Cult of the Dead Cow and Hacktivismo!

Looks like a case of "Power in the hands of those without responsibility".
For more on 'Torpark' see the BBC article "Free anonymising browser debuts" at

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