Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning; we might not agree with them in their actions or the path they took in what they did but one thing is clear. They have initiated and sparked a strong debate concerning privacy and the rights of individuals to use the World Wide Web and their mobile devices without being watched. In an article posted by Jeffry Toobin in The New Yorker on line magazine on August 20th 2013, he indicates; "To be sure, Snowden has prompted an international discussion about surveillance".
For some, it is highly disconcerting that while searching innocently on the web for an item of interest someone is watching your tracks, where you are going and even where you might have been. Directed marketing based on historical web traffic is a vertical worth billions of dollars. However, the jury is still out on its validity and lawfulness. As dealers, much as any other solid entrepreneur, we need to get to know our clients and do all we can to retain them. But, this desire and information gathering should stop at the point at which the information gathered has little to do with selling a car or a service to our clients. As dealers we are blessed with large databases and by using this data properly and prudently there is a great deal of business to be had. However, we need to be cognizant of vendors we choose especially those providing us with customer tracking Java Script on our websites.
Chat companies and many other "marketing" companies supposedly track your customer’s movements before or after they entered your web assets and provide information concerning their web movements, but what other information they gather and where is that information directed? Do you have an agreement with them to assure compliance with privacy laws? If they collect that information while on your site, your company could be seen as the guilty party. Of course, you might be able to prove otherwise in a court of law, but privacy laws are constantly being re-written and evaluated. What will it cost you monetarily and reputation wise, while you are defending yourself?
There have been many good articles written recently on this matter. Some of this is good marketing; some crosses the line and that is a line that must not be crossed. Read the articles and make an informed decision. It’s your vendor; it’s your dealership. In short, first, partner with a web asset vendor that understands these nuances and brings them to your attention. Second, although you might not realize that a vendor you signed is posting Java Script on your website; your web asset partner should notify you of such. Remember, the World Wide Web is still not too different than the Wild Wild West. Protect your valued asset, your client base, as they are trusting you when they enter your domain.