Some notable (and otherwise unannounced) changes on the BlueKai website when it comes to privacy, on this page.
They have dropped the references to providing incentives to consumers for being profiled — which amounted to a sort of charitable rewards program for folks who helped build their interests profile. Gone is this language (emphasis mine):
It’s all about choice, reward, and privacy.
Much like with commercials on television, online consumers like you are familiar with receiving messages from marketers in exchange for free or subsidized content across the Internet. While BlueKai has not come up with a solution to eliminate advertising altogether, we’ve created an anonymous registry of online preferences that helps you manage and control what marketers know about you.
In return, you, the consumer, are rewarded with the 3C’s: control, charity, and content.
Control—With the BlueKai registry, you can control and manage your online preferences by selecting or de-selecting topics of interest. Your preferences may be used anonymously to influence which types of marketing messages you receive across partner sites that we work with. Or you can choose to not participate at all. (But we encourage you to read on before you decide!)
Charity—It gets better! When marketers pay to access anonymous data from BlueKai, you will be rewarded with a credit to donate to the charity of your choice.
Content—By voluntarily sharing your online preferences, you’re helping marketers provide polite and relevant marketing to you, while they continue to pay the publishers who manage the Web sites you frequent. In return, you will continue to reap the benefits of free content that is available across the Internet.
The top-level messaging now focuses only on transparency and choice, not so much on incentives, and no mention of donations to charity (although their process to modify your own preferences retains the references to selecting a charity — I assume this means the program still operates).
Also, some interesting things on this new page:
- Data Retention Policy – Effective May 1, 2009, BlueKai will retain data for no more than six months after the day of collection.
- Permanent Opt Out – Opt out mechanisms currently rely on the “cookie” technology which means once cookies are erased from a computer, the opt-out preference is also forgotten. BlueKai believes a “permanent opt-out” technology is a better solution for delivering on the promise of choice and privacy to consumers. It is a key initiative for BlueKai to work with various online media constituents to drive industry consensus and adoption on consumer opt-out.
- Consumer Outreach Program – What good are consumer programs if consumers don’t know about it or use it? To this point, BlueKai is planning to work with key industry players to create awareness on consumer opt-out and transparency programs. The goal is to instill confidence and an understanding of data and ad targeting across the Internet that supports consumer control.
The six-month rentention policy is new, and when implemented will be a change from their current privacy statement, which says:
We retain Preference Data and other information for so long as we have a business-related need to retain it. Generally, we retain Preference Data for no longer than two years.
It is very important to understand how the six month restriction will work in practice. Does it mean that the entirety of a consumer’s profile at any given moment is comprised only of behaviors gathered in the preceding six months? Or does it mean simply that any specific record of individual behavioral events is only retained for six months, but the classification of the consumer based on those events is retained indefinitely (and therefore targetable)? And does the same retention policy apply to any third party service which had access to the same information from BlueKai?
This is not nitpicking — your average consumer hears “six month retention” and would expect that to mean that their profile will expire everywhere after that period. The policy statement needs to be clear on this point, and right now it isn’t.
The endorsement of permanent cookie settings is commendable. I will be in touch with them about how this can be faciliated within the coming privacychoice browser plugin.
POST UPDATED 4/6 per information from BlueKai (thanks!).