Thursday, July 12, 2007

P3P - Do we really care about it?

P3P (Platform for Privacy Preferences Project) as it is commonly known is actually not known by the regular internet user. I was going through some Internet terminologies and came across this term in Wikipedia. It immediately struck me as an interesting topic and prompted me to share my own views. P3P is a standard introduced by the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) for website to share/display their privacy policy to the general Internet users. There is tons of information on P3P on the Internet with all sorts of intricate details.
But do people know or feel the need for P3P? Personally, I think people should take it more seriously. I do know that third party cookie rejection rate has been at the highest during the past 3-4 years and it is high time that websites start feeling the need for introducing valid and sound privacy policies. Third party cookies are a piece of text/data placed on your machine that do not belong to the website you have visited. If you go to www.msn.com and you find an Omniture 2o7.net cookie on your machine, the 2o7.net cookie is the third party cookie tracking your browsing details in this scenario.

According to a WebTrends article posted in 2005, the cookie rejection rate was as high as 12-15%. So we can guess that figure should be between 20-25% in 2006-2007. The new versions of browsers like Firefox and IE7 aren’t helping matters either. The default settings in the Privacy tab of IE7 are designed to automatically block third party cookies that do not have a P3P policy. Look at the below screenshot.

So these points do prove that Webanalytics giants like WebTrends and Omniture are loosing a lot of valuable data as their cookies are being blocked more and more if the security setting of browsers is high. But this has been the trend since Web Analytics originated. One of the reasons why Google, MSN and Yahoo are successful in targeting their customers is because they have a login cookie placed on the user’s machine. If a hotmail customer is logged on to passport, it is really easier for Microsoft to show ads based on his previous browsing habits. This cookie can never be blocked unless the users chooses to block all the cookies. But if the user blocks all the cookies, he would not be able to login to his account. So it is possible that majority of the users will choose the defualt browser setting making it easier for other websites to place their cookies. It is always better for websites to have a TRUSTe Privacy Program which is a universal standard found in a privacy policy and for users it is a good practice to read the privacy policy of a website which can be checked by going to View -> Web Page Privacy Policy in your IE7 browser. The default setting in browsers will always allow cookies from companies having a Privacy Policy. A website having a valid privacy policy would also be worthy of the trust of users. Users should always shop online on portals having a TRUSTe Privacy seal in their Privacy policy.

It was a good practice for me to look around for information about P3P and believe that it is a positive step taken to make the users aware about what kind of data is being collected and how it could be attributed to their online behavior. Please feel free to add your opinions/criticisms.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Things that make Online Shopping click

Ecommerce is really an interesting term to talk about because it is becoming popular day by day in developing countries and is already successful in the Western world. Countries like United States and United Kingdom have setup the appropriate infrastructure for Online shopping to thrive whereas developing countries are a little behind in terms of the facilities needed for ecommerce to boom. I also wrote an article on Online Shopping in India. Internet speed, Latest Antivirus protection, Updated Spyware and Malware protection, Firewall protection, Ground shipping etc are really important to make Online shopping successful in any country. So it is necessary that we ensure appropriate steps are taken to secure our computer before we shop online. Ground Shipping is another important aspect of Online Shopping. I was browsing www.amazon.com and looking for some game DVDs for my cousin in India but unfortunately Amazon has a policy which doesn’t allow people to ship DVDs outside of US. So such things do go a long way in hampering the growth and popularity of Online Shopping around the world but these are exceptions that will exist everywhere.
On a brighter note, a study by J.D. Power and Associates in 2006 revealed that used car buyers increased from 53 % in 2005 to 59 % in 2006. Websites like www.carfax.com, www.kbb.com have made it very easy for people to compare used cars online and portals like www.cars.com have made it a breeze for people to buy/sell cars instantly.
Another successful online shopping industry is the electronics market. Personally I have always believed in buying electronics online because I can get an in depth review of the product with detailed specs. Especially Laptops and Digital Cameras have experienced a huge Internet market as majority of the people end up buying them online because they are cheaper in comparison to retail store prices. Other important industries gaining popularity online are Clothing, Home Decors, Perfume and Cosmetics. Websites like www.ebay.com have made it possible for people to browse for their favorite brands in clothing. They also have the option to select the design, color of the fabric by simply sitting at home. Perfumes too fall under the same category offering consumers the option to easily select their favorite fragrance and brand. Home Decors is a booming industry in the making as shopping for these in stores is not a good idea as they might be bulky and difficult to carry. So buying them online is a really good bet as they can be delivered to your home without you actually going to that crowded store. So online shopping will continue to gain more popularity worldwide as it has more advantages than disadvantages but it will take some time for people to understand its worth in some parts of the world. I hope you like this article and please feel free to comment with your opinions.