Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Google Changes Privacy Settings on Search History

I've become more than a little unsettled by Google. The latest news from Google only exacerbates that feeling.

Google wants to provide YOU with more accurate searches and wants to do so based upon YOUR search history. That's great. Or is it? Will this search data become integrated with other Google products? This data helps Google know more about YOU. But do we really give our permission to Google (the corporate entity) to use our data throughout its subsidiaries when we use one of these subsidiaries? For example does participation in Google Search mean that YouTube (owned by Google) can share in the use of this data?

Right now Google seems to be limiting their search data collection to Google the search engine. Good. Let's keep it that way. But even here - users MUST have the ability to see what is collected and to be able to remove data from the database - for whatever reason it may be.

Previously, we only offered Personalized Search for signed-in users, and only when they had Web History enabled on their Google Accounts. What we're doing today is expanding Personalized Search so that we can provide it to signed-out users as well. This addition enables us to customize search results for you based upon 180 days of search activity linked to an anonymous cookie in your browser.
Personalized Search for everyone

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Facebook's Privacy Policy Changes

I haven’t been happy with Facebook for a while now. My concerns can be placed into two categories: one is usability and the second is privacy. The usability issues have not improved and now, I fear, that the privacy issues have worsened. I have to thank EFF for reviewing Facebook’s Privacy Settings.

Although sold as a "privacy" revamp, Facebook's new changes are obviously intended to get people to open up even more of their Facebook data to the public. The privacy "transition tool" that guides users through the configuration will "recommend" — preselect by default — the setting to share the content they post to Facebook, such as status messages and wall posts, with everyone on the Internet, even though the default privacy level that those users had accepted previously was limited to "Your Networks and Friends"
At this point there's no "if" about it: the Facebook privacy transition tool is clearly designed to push users to share much more of their Facebook info with everyone, a worrisome development that will likely cause a major shift in privacy level for most of Facebook's users
Looking even closer at the new Facebook privacy changes, things get downright ugly when it comes to controlling who gets to see personal information such as your list of friends. Under the new regime, Facebook treats that information — along with your name, profile picture, current city, gender, networks, and the pages that you are a "fan" of — as "publicly available information" or "PAI." Before, users were allowed to restrict access to much of that information. Now, however, those privacy options have been eliminated. For example, although you used to have the ability to prevent everyone but your friends from seeing your friends list, that old privacy setting — shown below — has now been removed completely from the privacy settings page.

Mr. Zuckerberg whatever happened to: ”Our philosophy is that people own their information and control whom they share it with..."

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Just Say No to Coupon Codes, Part II

I've long argued against the coupon code. My primary concern has been that customers without the customer code would be turned off as they are missing a sale. Several clients (one in particular which will remain anonymous) thought that customers missing out of the sale would be more inclined to sign up in order not to miss future sales. I always thought that it would be preferable to include the customer code in the email link. This way the customer wouldn't have to remember the code. One could always entice others to sign up by having notices posted during the check-out process that if they signed up they would be able to take part in future sales.

How nice it was to see The Guru of Gurus, Prognosticator of all Prognosticators, Jakob Nielsen, mention these same points in his column: Short-Term Memory and Web Usability

Instead of using coupon codes, encode offers in special links embedded in your email newsletters and automatically transfer the coupon to the user's shopping cart. This has two benefits:
  • The computer carries the burden of remembering the obscure code and applying it at the correct time.
  • It eliminates the "enter coupon code" field, which scares away shoppers who don't have coupons (and who refuse to pay full price when the checkout flow blatantly signals that other users are getting a better deal).