Are We Hypocrites on Privacy?

I have been carefully reading the terms and conditions and privacy policies of companies to which I subscribe more often, lately. I am concerned about with whom my data is shared and under what conditions. While I hold my vendors to high standards, have I let our company’s standards slip?

I have been carefully reading the terms and conditions and privacy policies of companies to which I subscribe more often, lately. I am concerned about with whom my data is shared and under what conditions. While I hold my vendors to high standards, have I let our company’s standards slip?

With great confidence I can say, “No, I have not,” but can you?

My sister wears a FitBit. She explained to me it reminded her to walk 10,000 steps per day, and also enabled her to track her fitness progress on their website. That sounds great, I thought—until I read their privacy policy, one with gaping black holes and ambiguous terms. A privacy policy I found so objectionable the benefits simply did not justify the means.

After shopping for nearly a year, I recently bought an HTC phone—the unlocked version, which enables me to control which apps are installed and what they share. Though Google is by no means setting the standard for privacy, I feel Google is reluctant to share my information with others and so those are the only third-party apps allowed—no Facebook, no Twitter, no games, no sharing of any kind.

So, here are two instances where a company’s privacy policy has changed not just my habits, but my buying decisions. This got me to thinking about how many marketers’ privacy policies have been written in such a manner as to be intentionally ambiguous, somewhat misleading, or downright dishonest in order to encourage people to subscribe. As you set about collecting subscriber names, what are your answers to these hard questions:

  • Is your privacy complete and up to date?
  • Is your privacy policy clear and honest?
  • Do you use your subscriber names ONLY in the way you have described?
  • If your company marketing practices have changed, does your policy reflect these changes?
  • Are you collecting, or have you collected, information you did not disclose?
  • Do others have access to what you proclaimed as private?
  • Have you been hacked?
  • Has an employee taken your data with them when they left the company?

Some of these answers have the air of intent, while others present you as the victim. But in both cases, it’s time to update your policies, and this can present a wonderful, welcomed opportunity for dialog with your subscribers.

We’ve all received of one of those seemingly nefarious letters, “We’ve Updated Our Privacy Policy,” so how about a new take on an old problem: “Good News! We’ve Updated Our Privacy Policy to Give You Even More Privacy!”

If you’ve spent the last few years collecting data about your subscribers and you’ve found you’re not using the vast majority of it—and let’s face it, the data shows we’re simply not—it’s time to delete it from your list. If you haven’t used it thus far, it’s out of date and useless to you going forward. Delete it and brag about it. Send a cheery note to your subscribers reminding them that while others are collecting more and more, you are collecting less and you’re intentionally deleting everything you have not found directly useful to how you interact with them today and not specifically covered in your privacy policy.

Send them to a link with the shortest, sweetest privacy policy they’ve read, for example:

Our Privacy policy

  • We have on file only your first name, last name, and email address.
  • We ask for nothing else.
  • We send you only emails you request.
  • We have nothing to share with others, and wouldn’t if they asked.
  • We won’t change this policy without prior notice – ever.

Thank you for being our customer.

– Sincerely,
Your Grateful Vendor

No, I’ve never actually seen a policy like this, but if I did, I wouldn’t hesitate to purchase their wearables or buy their phone.

Author: Cyndie Shaffstall

Email marketing is the most effective way to increase sales, improve service, and keep your customers engaged. Email campaigns are best bolstered through an integrated strategy that crosses channels and meets your constituents where they congregate and in the media they prefer. “The Integrated Email” provides best practices and ideas for developing strategies and deploying email campaigns and initiatives while keeping an eye on revenue attributable to marketing.

Cyndie Shaffstall, founder, Spider Trainers, is a successful entrepreneur and prolific author, with many books, dozens of eBooks, and hundreds of articles to her credit. She is the former founder of ThePowerXChange, editor and publisher of X-Ray Magazine, and the current founder and managing member of Spider Trainers, a managed automated email services provider for companies around the world. Connect with Cyndie on LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, or join her LinkedIn Group, the Marketing Resource Library for daily links to marketing-critical resources.

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