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Posts Tagged ‘credit card’

Facebook‘s launch of instant personalization caused an uproar in the blogosphere. The company ran a pilot with sites such as yelp.com, where if you are logged in to Facebook and visit these sites, the content served would be personalized based on your profile information. Users have the option to opt out. Blogs talked and talked about it, and reports resurfaced about how Mark Zuckerberg made a statement that Facebook “doesn’t believe in privacy.”

Facebook has been growing at a very fast pace and during one week surpassed Google as the most visited site on the Internet. What % of Facebook users know of and care about privacy issues? I was once asked, “what is your stand on it”? I had no answer. On one hand as a consumer, I am exasperated at how easily available personal information is on the Internet. On the other hand as an e-commerce executive, I cannot help but realize that without that information, how would we get new customers? How would we use targeting and segmentation to grow the business? My consumer side wins over the business side. If you Google yourself, you come across several sites that replicate information from social networks. Not only that, these sites have other personal information that is in public records of the government. I spent one day emailing a number of sites to remove personal information – one site refused because the information was publicly available in government records. It is scary because now I have access to information on how much a person spent on a house, or anything that the person may have written or contributed to in the past. A couple of sites get your business information from some place (probably LinkedIn), and you have vendors calling you all the time after subscribing to that site. I got my info removed – they put it back up after a few months.

I wonder, where will Facebook go in terms of privacy? Will users start leaving if Facebook lowers privacy barriers? Has Facebook’s growth reached a maximum, and the only way to go from here is down?

Privacy is not restricted to social networks alone. A large number of retargeting and behavioral targeting companies have cropped up. Retargeting is relatively new, where you put a cookie on visitors who come to your site, and you serve them ads on other sites that they visit to bring them back to convert on your site. Behavioral targeting has different business models – your visitor data is contributed to a common cookie pool, and ads are served to users on other sites based on how closely they match your site visitors. In layman terms, once you visit a site, the site’s ads “follow you around” on the Internet. Many e-commerce sites use these programs, and I have seen ads follow me! It is easy to tell which ones are retargeting and which ones are behavioral — if you get served ads on a site you recently visited, it is retargeting; if you see ads for competitors of the site you visited, it is behavioral. I don’t know how much of personal information the sites have access to, but once a cookie is dropped, they can track you everywhere you visit. The best way to avoid this is clearing cookies after every browsing session. However, each time you visit a site it will drop a cookie, so clearing cookies frequently can be taxing.

I don’t mind cookies because it helps save passwords and sites remember my login and information. As long as sites do not know who I am by name, I don’t care that they know which sites I visit. But you have to wonder, how much more advanced will these sites get, since they have access to so much information? Retargeting business models are becoming a commodity because it is easy to do, cost is low, and there is very little differentiation among vendors. If there is any advanced capability, it is easy to replicate. Vendors have to be smart and devise advanced ways to target and segment, which requires consumer information.

Recently, it was made illegal to pass credit card information automatically. For example, some sites use Webloyalty where at the end of an online purchase, you can sign up for access to certain discounts and offers. Your credit card information will, in some cases, automatically be passed if you choose to sign up, and in some cases there maybe an automatic monthly fee. This is how you get that $9.99 free credit score charge monthly in your credit card statement!! It is now illegal to automatically pass credit card information, and the customer has to enter credit card info again after signing up – this serves as an additional layer to ensure that the customer is aware of the charge. LinkedIn does something similar and shady. You can sign up for a Pro account but you have to call to cancel and cannot choose the option to opt out of monthly automatic fee. I complained to Consumer Affairs and disputed their charge on my credit card. It is such a blatant manner to fool the consumer – clearly, if the consumer wants to sign up for a monthly service, he/she will do so. Removing that option just shows that the company is being greedy and does business in taking advantage of consumers.

There need to be legal rules and regulations around online privacy. There are always loopholes, but laws such as the above on credit card information force businesses to change their business practices and make them more compliant.

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After waiting for so long I finally reapplied for my Amex card and got one. I decided to check out my credit score and noticed a couple of things that were inconsistent, and disputed them. I got them removed and my score went up by ONLY 10 points. Sigh! My husband’s score is much better… why don’t we have the same damn score? Anyway, I applied again for Amex and got approved. Can’t imagine how only 10 points can get approval… well I also gave my exact salary info. I usually give either none or lower salary info. Why should I tell someone how much my household income is? Its private.

I am so glad to be rid of Citi’s octopus-like tentacles. I HATE Citi to no extent, and completely understand why the size is posing to be such a challenge. Citi has not updated its credit cards site in years. The rewards are pathetic – the only think I redeem my rewards on is Amazon gift cards. There are only so many I can get though. Last year I redeemed my points for a $200 gift card. I never received it. After a couple of calls I received a form. I filled out the form but while moving apartments it got lost. I called Citi again but they refused to replace it, and 20,000 points went down the drain. Amex totally would have replaced the rewards. While I earn more points on Citi, what is the point if the rewards suck? At least Amex treats its customers better and has great rewards. One of my ex-colleagues got an iPod replaced by Amex, how cool is that?

I sent Citi customer service an email letting them know of how happy I am to have finally gone Amex, and that I don’t have to deal with Citi anymore. This is the response I received:

Dear (insert my name),

Thank you for your message regarding your Citibank credit  card account. I regret you did not receive your $200.00 gift card from using your Citibank Credit card. We strive to help our online customers with each request; there are some requests that need to be handled by specialized departments. I would recommend contact our Citicards Division directly. Citibank offers a specific website for credit card accounts. For assistance with your credit card, you may contact CitiCards customer service at 1-800-950-5114, 24 hours a day.

You may also visit www.citicards.com to access your account or select the “Credit Cards” link found at the top of the screen.

I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this has caused you. If you have further questions, please send a message or call MyCiti Online Customer Service at 1-800-374-9700. Representatives are available to assist you 24 hours a day
7 days a week.

Thank you for using MyCiti. We appreciate the opportunity to serve you.

Sincerely,
MyCiti Online Customer Service

Does this make sense to anyone at all? They say contact the Citicards division directly. Ok, which division is this? Are you not that division? Then why is your contact on the Citicards site? You regret; really? Do you really regret it or are you just spewing crap? You “strive” to help online customers… do you know what strive means? Strive means “to attempt, endeavor, try”; you call sending this email striving? It says “Citicards offers a specific website for credit cards”. I EMAILED YOU ON THAT WEBSITE, YOU MORONS. The email has NOTHING to do with my problem, its just a generic email. Citi probably spent the government funding on technology to send such emails. I feel free to be rid of this crappy company and crappy service. No wonder they keep selling on the phone – they need the money to make up for lost customers.

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