REVEALED: How Creepy Marketers Get Your Email Address
Have you ever visited an online store, and later got an email from that website, even though you never provided your email address? I find this disturbing, and you probably will too, when you learn how and why this is happening. Read on to learn the source of mystery marketing messages...
Are You Getting Creepy, Unsolicited Emails?
I recently read the story of the Brody family who had a new baby, and were shopping online for some baby-related items. They filled out a form on one website, but stopped short of making a purchase. About 10 minutes later, the Mr. Brody got an email from the company, reminding him that he hadn’t yet completed his transaction. His first thought was “This is not ok.” He never pressed the Submit button to send his personal info to the website, but somehow they had his name and email address.
As I was reading this story, it reminded me that sometimes I also get emails from websites that I’ve visited, without ever making a purchase. Maybe you’ve seen them... emails that say “You left items in your shopping cart, click here to complete your purchase.” In some cases, I might have ordered from them previously, so it’s understandable that they would have my email address. Still annoying, because I didn’t “forget” to complete my purchase. I just decided not to buy, or bought it elsewhere.
In other cases, it was unclear to me how they got my email address, without me ever clicking the Submit button on an order form. That is, until I read about Mr. Brody’s experience. It turns out that the website he was on uses a technology called "AddShoppers Email Retargeting® Co-op + SafeOpt® Consumer Rights Management Integrated Platform".
AddShoppers claims to have a network of over 150 million shoppers, and by capturing the activity and information that shoppers enter on over 5000 websites, they can “resolve customer identities and deliver email regardless of customer email acquisition.” In plainer language, Addshoppers combines bits and pieces of customer data from a large network of ecommerce websites. And if you’ve made a purchase on any of them, that information will be shared with the rest of the network.
Here’s how they define "The Problem". Marketers can’t send emails to customers that have not provided their email address. Their solution is to enable marketers to “reach engaged unauthenticated site visitors with triggered emails... through privacy-first brand collaboration... for a relevant, 1:1 marketing experience.” That’s a fancy way of saying “we’ll help you send unsolicited emails, to unsuspecting people, who already decided not to buy from you.”
Here’s an example of how that might work. Let’s say Isabelle buys a pair of shoes on Website A, which logs her personally identifying information with the AddShopper network. Days, weeks, or months later, she visits Website B, starts the browses around for a new dress, but after entering just her name on the order form, she gets a phone call from a friend. Ten minutes pass while they chat. Behind the scenes, Website B was silently monitoring where Isabelle had clicked and what she typed.
Based on her name, and perhaps other information they can glean such as her device type, operating system, and IP address, they query the AddShopper database. In plain English, that query would look like this: “Hey AddShopper, do you have anyone named Isabelle Ringing that owns a Pixel 6a smartphone running Android Version 12? Based on her IP address, we think she’s in the Chicago area.” If there’s a match, AddShopper will provide Isabelle’s email address, and before she finishes her phone call, she gets an email from Website B that says “Hey there, Isabelle... do you still want that dress?”
Disturbing Questions and Another Example
I have an even more disturbing example that deals with smartphone technology. A few months ago I walked into a CVS drugstore, poked around a bit, and left without buying anything. The next day, I got an email from CVS that said something along the lines of “Thanks for visiting your local CVS store at [address], here’s a coupon for your next visit.”
Talk about creepy. I don’t have a CVS app on my phone, and as far as I know, I had never provided my email address to them. This type of privacy intrusion must rely on GPS tracking, a technology like AddShopper that builds consumer dossiers as folks roam about online and offline, and some other secret sauce that I can’t figure out.
You can use a disposable email address (see Defend Your Inbox With a Disposable Email Address) when shopping, or turn off the Location Services on your smartphone to foil some of these tactics. But the bottom line is that privacy, in terms of where you go and what you buy (both online and offline) is fast eroding.
Has anything like this happened to you? What steps did you take to boost your online privacy? Please post your comments or questions below.
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 3 Apr 2023
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- REVEALED: How Creepy Marketers Get Your Email Address (Posted: 3 Apr 2023)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved