This fortnight in Online Insights, we look at privacy on classifieds sites, piracy, social media, and ironing!!

carsales.com.au’s privacy policy

Privacy and Facebook has been in the news a lot (possibly because news corp owns MySpace, or is that being too cynical?) but I am concerned about privacy in relation to popular classified sites such as carsales.com.au. Here is why.

Yesterday I got an email from City Holden, completely out of the blue. This spam got up my nose more than usual for a few reasons:

  • Firstly, I am NOT in the market for a car.
  • Secondly, it was sent with a high priority notifier, which means it demanded attention that quite simply was not warranted. This is the equivalent of the little boy calling wolf.
  • Thirdly, it was sent with an attachment, which is poor form for any mass mailing, let alone UNSOLICITED mailings. Adding salt to the wound, the email contained a message saying City Holden would not be responsible if the attachment, which I never asked for, contained a virus or damaged my computer.

What wonderfully warm communication, I think not. But this gets better. After emailing back to City Holden and asking to be removed, I was informed that it was sent via the carsales.com.au marketing database and the only way I could stop City Holden contacting me was for ME to contact carsales.com.au and remove myself from their mailing list. I queried this further and City Holden sent me more details and a link to the carsales.com.au privacy policy which does explain in a long, drawn-out page that indeed, if you do anything on the site they will both safeguard your privacy which is important to them but then either directly or through murky related bodies spam you for life unless YOU ask to be removed. And even then, it is not clear whether they wipe your details or just stop mailing you (and allowing third parties to do so). Does this sound like a flawed system to you?

Here is the great problem. Yes, carsales.com.au does give you a choice to OPT IN to their own newsletter when you submit an enquiry, but there is absolutely NOTHING on the enquiry form that says please allow the company I am contacting to send me newsletters and unwanted emails forever.

It is actually a convenient arrangement. I never asked for the carsales newsletter. But the car dealers I contacted for more information have somehow, through their relationship with carsales, been able to send me nuisance email, long after I had left the car market. Nobody wins from this – not carsales with falsely-bloated database, not the car dealer who now has their reputation reduced to that of a spam shop, and not me who must now go back to carsales and arrange removal from a list I NEVER signed up for KNOWINGLY. Even the wording of their privacy page, to me, seems ambiguous.

I agree that there is some mutual benefit in getting access to extra marketing during the purchase phase, but how long does that last? A month? There should be an agressive sunset clause to cleanse our details from the carsales.com.au system in a given number of weeks. To hold our details and message us after that is surely disingenuous. In my opinion, emails sent become SPAM if they are irrelevant to the receiver. That must be the fundamental test, with permission being the other. As I lecture in my workshops and to clients, TRICKING people into your database is a cheap, shoddy approach to marketing, one that should have ceased and/or been outlawed years ago. And it DOES NOT count that there is a long privacy policy explaining all this. A “marketing-based” or “customer-centric” business would not need long and wordy privacy policies.

Here is my suggestion to carsales.com.au. You have a service you should be proud of. You bring buyers and sellers together. It is an absolute blight on your name and reputation when you don’t take proactive measures to be reasonable with users’ personal data. So:

  • firstly, make a full range of opt out choices available when a visitor first comes to your site (or be up front and not only have the OPT IN for carsales newsletter but also an OPT IN so that people can choose to allow individual dealers to spam them for the rest of their lives, that is only fair)
  • secondly, use sunset clauses with permissions granted so that the user does not have to come back to your site to OPT OUT later. If you like, send an email at that point saying “Thank you for using carsales.com.au. We have taken the liberty of removing you from our mailing list at this time because you would likely have found your car by now. If you do wish to stay on our mailing list, please just reply to this email with the word “continue” (or some similar device)
  • thirdly, let individual car dealers remove users from your system because right now, your system has led me to associate City Holden with Spam, all because they allegedly cannot stop themselves from emailing me through your system
  • finally, you can actually win some good press and goodwill by claiming this new approach to fair and decent database marketing as your own idea and launch a new era to help clean up the stereotypically shady car/used car sector, and get mentioned in my marketing case studies and those developed by others for years to come. Are you game?

You can read the policy for yourself here.

Extreme ironing

Extreme Ironing

OneInchPunch.net Extreme Ironing picture

Although this sport has been around since 1997, I have heard a little more chatter about it in my circles recently and have been pressed into covering it.

Extreme ironing is an extreme sport in which participants take an ironing board, iron and clothes to somewhere extreme and do their ironing.

There is not that much more to say about it other than to wonder whether this was created by frustrated parents trying to encourage teenage boys to take an interest in one of humankind’s most mundane chores. (In fact, it was created by someone bored with ironing inside on a nice day and deciding to go outdoors).

In essence, the best way to succeed in extreme ironing are to:

  • use a battery-powered iron
  • go in pairs at least
  • be fearless

Some more recent achievements have been:

  • Henry Cookson ironing the Antarctic Pole of Inaccessibility
  • Extreme ironing taking place under water – the record is 86 people ironing underwater at one time
  • And a WII game is slated to include extreme ironing

Here is a video of the action.

You can find out more at Extreme Ironing headquarters.

Rig the charts unofficially

Chartfixer is no more

Chartfixer is no more

From what I hear, until now, only the big record companies could rig charts through smarmy PR people schmoozing with music directors and certain product dumping and buybacks to trigger sales figures. But now, a site called Chartfixer is on the scene to give all artists, even those not signed up with the big labels, a chance to break into the ARIA charts. Well, I should say “was” on the scene because it closed last Tuesday, June 8, 2010.

Here is how it worked. You pay Chartfixer a fee, say $6,000 and they arrange for members to buy 1,000 downloads which is apparently enough to get into the Top 80. For $30,000 they arrange enough sales to get into the Top 20. So the artist pays Chartfixer and Chartfixer pays their “army of downloaders” to legally pay for and download X number of copies of your song, getting paid as they go.

ARIA was a little upset and was doing all it could to stop the site while Chartfixer was busy looking for new stars to give birth too and new ways to pay its army of downloaders.

We’ve always known fame comes at a price, and thanks to Chartfixer we at least knew the exact price for a little while!

RIP Chartfixer. Read a story about it here.

Nutshell Mail

I have begun using a service called Nutshell Mail which is proving to be quite handy for keeping my social web activities nicely contained.

It works by summarising all your output and input via social sites such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, into an email. You can elect for this free summary email to be sent throughout the day. I have mine at 8am, noon, and 8pm.

This  digest means you can check your social presence in the same way you check your email, helping to streamline your involvement.

What is more, you can react to comments all from within that email, making it easier still.

The best thing is that it is free.

The weakest part is that it is clumsy to read on my Blackberry due to formatting issues, but nice in my Outlook.

Try Nutshell Mail yourself.

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