Eisenberg: Spyware Purveyors Giving Web Analytics Vendors a Black Eye

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Bryan Eisenberg is chairman of the Web Analytics Association. He is also co-founder and chief persuasion officer of Future Now, Brooklyn, NY, and co-author of "Call to Action: Secret Formulas to Improve Online Results." Here are his thoughts on ad:tech San Francisco and developments in interactive advertising, marketing, media and technology.

What's the mood of the market?

The mood would be better if unethical spyware purveyors weren't giving honest Web analytics vendors a black eye. Spyware is software installed without consumer notice, choice or recourse. It's often used for the purpose of engaging in practices that are deceptive or of criminal intent.

Web analytics vendors, on the other hand, develop and make use of Internet-based tools that measure and track online behavior. Certain components of these tools, such as cookies and Web beacons, are unfortunately being confused with spyware software. But cookies and Web beacons are not downloadable software and therefore cannot execute malicious programs on a user's machine. As such, they pose no deceptive threat whatsoever to people who are online.

At the end of the day this information is used to enhance the people's experience of the sites they are visiting. I don't think anyone would begrudge a bricks-and-mortar store a camera that shows that people are 'slipping' or 'tripping' on the welcome mat just inside their store. Well, Web analytics cookies are a merchant's way of knowing if customers are slipping away and having an unsuccessful visit.

What do you hope to see today at ad:tech San Francisco?

I am excited to see several sessions talking about Personas, including the Personas 2.0 session today. The great thing about companies using personas means that they have a sincere interest in understanding their "corporate world" through they eyes of the customers.

My company helps our clients develop personas to focus on building multiple pipelines that give clients the highest net sales, with the most efficient marketing spend and the optimum conversion rate overall - across every scenario for each persona. This allows them to use these personas to operationalize and better execute customer centricity in the organization.

Do you have any news to announce?

The Web Analytics Association recently announced that it has adopted an anti-spyware statement of principles. By an overwhelming vote, we said:

  • Members of the WAA will not engage in the deceptive practices that characterize spyware and those who purvey spyware.
  • The policies and practices of WAA members are open to third-party, independent review.
  • We believe defining and targeting deceptive practices, as opposed to focusing on the technology, will ultimately lead to better protection of the online user.
  • We are committed to educating the public about the benefits of cookies and Web beacons and dispelling the myth that these are spyware.
  • The WAA encourages U.S. federal legislation to establish an anti-deceptive practices (spyware) regulatory framework that is stringent, comprehensive and uniform.

What has changed since last year's ad:tech San Francisco?

A lot, including the founding of the WAA, a not-for-profit professional organization dedicated to promoting the understanding of Web analytics through education, advocacy, standards, research and technology. We were founded by a group of Web analytics industry leaders. The WAA's total membership exceeds 750 individuals and companies. The organization's members include companies like CoreMetrics, IBM, Omniture, Google Analytics, Walt Disney Internet Group, WebSideStory, WebTrends and Yahoo.

The mission of the association is to unite and foster the interests of practitioners, vendors, consultants and educators who use, sell, install, implement, consult, teach or train in the field of Web analytics. That's the biggest change that I've been part of since last year's ad:tech San Francisco.

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