Stop looking for the scapegoat

By | 2011-08-07

This post originally started is a comment to the post on Michele Hinojosa’s blog about “Whose responsibility is online privacy?“… but I got a little long-winded, so here we go!

First off… Yes, I work for a vendor but with regards to this topic I am an equal opportunity (vendor, implementor, business, etc…) offender.

That being said, we all suck… but not because we mean to, but rather because we are all trying to either offer the best, do the best or create a competitive advantage – ALL of us, not just vendors.

It is the goal of the consulting / analyst groups, or internal deployment teams, to create sophisticated solutions to help solve a business problem. Some of those business problems are attempts to gain some additional level of information that would put them ahead of their competitors.

Do you blame the business for trying to be successful? No

Do you blame the consult/analyst/deployment teams for doing the job they are asked? No

In a market that has mostly become a commodity, as “web analytics” has become, vendors are in a position to create solutions that allow for increased flexibility so that their solutions can further be brought into the larger marketing fold. If the industry were to specifically define exact requirements, not definitions or guidelines but rather exact requirements, for vendors to adhere to then every customer would go buy ACME Analytics and the advancement of the digital marketing space would be hamstrung.

Vendors create the flexibility in their solutions to allow a wide range of business to solve their various requirements.


I will say it, I do not blame Kissmetrics for this mess. They simply got caught having multiple customers using it. Perhaps it would be sold to those businesses as a distinct advantage over other analytics vendors. That would be a shame, but *ANY* current web analytics vendor can pull header information, if they really wanted to, and use that to understand the visitor – regardless of them clearing cookies. If you could do it in JavaScript, than it can & likely will be done – especially with server-side analytics where the end-user wouldn’t even know it.


On to the recently lambasted group, the Web Analytics Association (WAA), and why they haven’t called out Kissmetrics as a dangerous vendor, why they haven’t immediately stepped into the legal mess, why didn’t they have already, or are working on already, a “rule” or “standard” for vendors to fall by. I stand by my statements above about vendors.

What is the worst thing that would happen to a vendor? They would be deemed non-compliant with the WAA visitor identification act of 2011? Ok great, guess what – I’m no longer calling my product web analytics, it is now called “Digital Marketing Understanding”.

In my opinion, the role that the WAA plays in this entire situation is one of understanding how this type of visitor identification was deemed inappropriate, further recommend that consultants and businesses understand the Code of Ethics and provide a recommendation as to the 3, 4, 5, however many, best ways to identify a person/visitor. The last part would be a joint collaboration of the public policy, research, education, and standards committees.

The work that the standards committee is driving towards is very important to help educate businesses as to what may be important to them and it may help sway their decisions during the vendor selection process. Additionally, vendors should leverage the information resulting from the standards document to help guide their business towards terms that clients would understand and the expectations of them during the selection process.


My last point; there are numerous things in the online and offline world that would scare you if you really understood what companies know about you. It is YOUR responsibility to choose to engage with those business, or not, and if you choose to, you should understand their privacy policy – or lack there of.


I welcome ANY and ALL comments.

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