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Cookie Jar Control
Many online consumers still see cookies as spyware, and because those who want to opt out will, one analyst advises that firms make it easy for them.
Posted Mar 20, 2006
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Online consumers want better control of their personal data, according to data from Forrester Research's recently released "Consumer Technographics Q4 North American Healthcare, Consumer Experience and Retail Online Survey." Consumers aged 55 and over were particularly concerned regarding their privacy, the survey says. "We're really finding that consumers are becoming more concerned about the security of their data," says Moira Dorsey, a senior analyst at Forrester. People are becoming more aware of privacy and security issues, in part due to repeated reports about these issues and security breaches. "The concern about keeping their personal information private increases with age," Dorsey adds. "They're more apt to read privacy disclosures and more apt to opt out of non-essential data collection and use." Eighty percent of all online consumers don't want their information to be shared with other businesses. Forty-six percent of consumers say they opt out of data collection services. "That was the question that got the most definitive answer," Dorsey says. She couldn't explain the discrepancy between the percentage of respondents who say they want to opt out and those who actually do. Dorsey recommends a couple of steps for firms that want to foster better relationships with their online customers:
  • Explain what cookies do. To fight misconceptions about the difference between cookies and spyware, firms should include specific information about the use of cookies as part of online privacy and security policies. The policies should spell out in clear language what cookies are set and what they are called. Sixty percent of online consumers disagreed with the survey statement that cookies are harmless. Fifty-three percent don't believe it's acceptable for firms to set cookies even if it would improve the consumer's online experience.
  • Give users an easy path to opt out of nonessential data collection and use. Some users won't be convinced that cookies aren't a form of spyware, so privacy policies should provide a clear explanation of data-sharing practices along with links to forms that enable users to opt out of nonessential use of their data.
    Companies need to look for the best intersection between their business goals and those of the end user, Dorsey says. "By making it difficult for [users], they're only going to frustrate them in the process. What we're suggesting is that for those consumers who want to opt out of their online use of data, make it simple for them. They're going to do it anyway." Related articles: A Customer Respect Score Remains Level Helping Consumers to Swallow Cookies WebTrends' 7.5 Includes a Recipe for Cookie Cutters
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