A fair trade? NOT!

Thu, August 08, 2013

Contrary to what many advertisers say, consumers do not see being tracked as a fair trade for more relevant ads. In a recent survey conducted by Consumer Action for RespectMyDNT.org, more than half of individuals surveyed said they don’t buy the oft-repeated argument by advertisers that consumers are willing to trade their personal information for custom marketing pitches.

While the majority of individuals surveyed recognized that their data is often the price of using the Internet, their responses to questions in the survey indicated that they don’t like the arrangement and value their privacy above all. An overwhelming majority of those surveyed believe they should have the right to control the collection of personal information—because honestly, who knows how that information is being used?

Free content is one thing, but a less friendly way the collection of personal information may be used to disadvantage online shoppers is through “dynamic pricing.” You may be paying more than someone shopping for the same thing on the same website at the same time.

One reason for the higher price is because the website knows you looked at the item before, or you searched for the same or similar items elsewhere online. Hey, that means she really wants this item—let’s charge her more. Online stores easily can update prices minute by minute. And they can make a reasonable guess it’s you even if you are not signed in, because they can track visitors by IP number. Unfair? You betcha!

Dynamic pricing is just one reason why we need the to adopt laws protecting the use of consumer information. In coming months, RespectMyDNT will present you with more examples of how consumers are disadvantaged—and even harmed—by online tracking.

— Linda Sherry

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