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Posts Tagged ‘personal’

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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Rainy New York

I really really dislike rainy New York. It rains all day and night without an end in sight, and with no prior warning. Like my Mom says, in the US you cannot trust 3 things: weather is one of them; I fail to recall the other two! It is dark and gloomy all day, and not a single umbrella will hold up. You spend $10 on an umbrella and it will fly in the first gust of wind. You would think the country would get that one thing straight (umbrella), never mind the other advancements. Indian rains are worse, but at least you know when to expect the rain.

I am sick of the weather. Its mid-April, and it is still cold and rainy. New York is not even a mountaineous region, nor close to any large water body. Why the rain and humidity, then? We have 6-8 months of crappy weather, and just 3-4 months of decent summer. But even in this weather people will go out, have fun, and tourists will come visit.

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My little sister was once my best friend. I used to boss her around, and she always gave me the scoop on my extended large family. She was so irritating and kept chatting away till I lost my cool. Whenever I cooked rotis (Indian bread) she talked so much and distracted me, so much so that my rotis were of different shapes and sizes, and my parents and brother used to pick and choose and say “this is the map of Africa”, “this is the map of America”, and so on. I used to yell at her, and she giggled and ran away. But I loved listening to her, and giving my opinion. She was adorable. I remember when she was born, I used to take soooooo much care of her. I loved her like anything.

Then she grew up and we started having sibling rivalry. She was still adorable, but now got all the attention. I, being the older one, was expected to be more understanding and sacrificing. But we were still best friends. We fought and made up all the time, and I still loved her like no other. Some of my love transferred to my brother who was so small and adorable, but my sister was still my best friend. We used to hide things from my mom and dad, and my brother played “Narad muni” and tattled on us to our parents. It was so much fun growing up. A great sense of humor runs in my family. My sister is so sensitive, and its funny because she tries to show that she is strong and a free bird, but deep down she is very sensitive, loving, and adorable. I have always been so fiercely protective of her.

Now my sister is completely grown up and a woman. I feel like staying apart for so long has driven us apart. In the first few years of moving to a different country, I was so busy with my life that I did not call her as frequently; and sometimes her birthdays were an after-thought. We took our relationship for granted. I met her after a couple of years, and realized that things have changed between us. We are no longer best friends, and I feel so disconnected with her. I guess that is what miles do to you. We no longer share that close connection, but I still have my special bond with her. I know that no matter what I will always be there for her, NO MATTER WHAT. I still love her deeply, and miss her terribly sometimes…

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Death

I hate death, especially of loved ones. Well, who doesn’t! I heard of a few deaths of late. My grandparents (dad’s side) passed away 2-3 years back. My grandmother was so fragile and sweet. Last year, my husband’s grandmother passed away. Last week, someone from my old company passed away (Vivek Patel). I interacted briefly with Vivek when he was a summer intern, and by the time he was hired I had left the company. I remember Vivek as a very outgoing person, who knew what he wanted to do. He was interested in my functional group but had to intern in another team which was wrapping up due to no client work. He was “intern of the day” with me during the intern exchange day. He passed away of bipolar disorder. This is so sad; you never really know people. I cannot believe that someone as outgoing and interactive as him was suffering so much!

Today my husband’s friend told me that her father had passed  away a few months back. It was sad because she went back to India to spend time with her Dad because he was unwell, but before she got there he passed away. Truly heartbreaking. I cannot imagine living without my parents – I care so deeply about them. My Dad’s silent support and to-die-for smile, and mom’s talkative, funloving, and extremely caring nature add so much sunshine to my life. And my husband is such a good husband. I always want my loved ones around me in my life. God should focus on the bad people and take them away.

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