Tracking consumers’ behavior via cookies is creepy, and increasing numbers of the aforementioned consumers are getting fed up with it.
Legislators around the world are cracking down on tracking, as well, and many browsers are making it possible for people to simply opt out of tracking via cookies.
So how could online commerce, much of which is based on a cookie-fed understanding of browsing and purchase behavior, survive in a cookie-free world?
Fortunately, at least one startup in the online retail space is finding innovative and interesting ways to do business without violating users’ privacy and covertly tracking their every move.
Buyosphere is a startup we’ve covered in the past, back when it was called Shwowp. At the time, we appreciated how the startup was empowering shoppers by gathering their purchase data in one place — data that the consumer could then use when and how she or he chose. Incentives for social behaviors and influence among friends were baked in, too.
Now, the site has been gaining momentum with a slick redesign and a better brand name, and founder Tara Hunt is preaching the gospel truth about how her company is doing good business without resorting to cookie-based tracking.
A core tenet of Buyosphere is a C2B (that’s consumer-to-business) communication flow. In other words, rather than businesses silently gathering data on your behavior and pushing advertising propaganda at you in return, you get an opportunity to share your preferences with the companies directly. In a conversation this evening, Hunt explained how that works at her startup:
“At Buyosphere, you gather what you buy and own, and you make your own personal data package. Then you choose who to share it with. We build tools on top of your data for your own use — analytics, organization, notification, etc. — and in the future (and when the Do Not Track legislation heats up), we’ll be there to offer retailers a way to receive these personal data packages in a way that consumers control 100%.”
As the Do Not Track movement gains steam in the U.S. and anti-cookie laws take effect in other parts of the world, Hunt seems poised to meet privacy-hungry consumers halfway. And given the current public mood and government legislation, shouldn’t more sites be focusing on responsibly gathering and storing customer data without violating anyone’s privacy or selling out their own customers?
But there is a downside to running a consumer-centric retail company. “Well, we can’t promote what would make us the most money,” Hunt admitted. “We need to stay 100% vendor neutral.” But even with these self-imposed stipulations, Hunt says, “I think we can really help find cool stuff locally and at the edge of the web for people.”
Hunt at TEDxConcordia
Hunt is adamant about consumers’ being able to use their own data for their own purposes. As a result, the startup takes a strong stance on data portability, too.
Buyosphere’s site states that when consumers control how data is collected and own their own data, they can (and will) share it with the companies they want to have insight about them. The brands, in turn, get deeper understanding of their target customers and can plan accordingly.
But these principles go far beyond what Hunt is trying to do with Buyosphere. “I want to see a huge shift in the perspective of data ownership; we are only looking at a slice of the pie,” she said.
“Think health data. Think financial data. … The options fundamentally open up when consumers own their own data. It behooves everyone.”
Isn’t that vision a bit idealistic, we asked? “Of course I’m idealistic,” Hunt responded. “I’m an entrepreneur.”
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