How Ethical Is Tracking User Behavior?

As we provide much of our information online, it becomes easy for a business to track our behavior. There are a lot of determinants on whether or not this action is right or wrong. Tracking users behavior can be a helpful thing if a businesses using this information properly.

Projected Intent

The application Google Analytics provides businesses with a significant amount of resources for tracking data. In this application, businesses could understand who is visiting, what their interests are, what page go them to their site, etc. This information provides an easy way to track user behavior and understand the audience better. From here, it is upon the business to then take this information and use it in an ethical reasoning. Ethical intent could be providing interest specific ads, providing incentives to re-visit the site, or provide the user with emails on when deals will be held. These are positive, non-invasive, ways tracking can be ethical.

Google Analytics

Consumer Permission

An important way to make an action ethical would be through asking for permission. By tracking user behavior you hold what might be seen to some as personal data. To avoid pushing privacy boundaries, allow consumers to know their data is being tracked. An informative tactic that provides users with the ability to allow or decline their information to be used based off their interests in the site would be cookies. This provides users with an option to participate or not. Another tactic could be, using an email sign up option that gives users to ability to receive more information from the site they are on. These tactics are just a couple ways a business can make sure their actions of tracking user behavior stay ethical in the process.

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How many cookies could the cookie monster eat; if the cookie monster could eat cookies?

Do these images look familiar? If so, you have previous experience with ‘cookie data’. As you can see, the consumer must allow or grant the company to have access to this data.

With that being said, as long as there is consent from the consumer it is ethical for digital marketing professionals to have access to this somewhat intrusive data. Keep in mind, individuals have the option to ‘reject’ or open an ‘Incognito’ browser.

The consumer will most likely benefit from granting ‘cookie access’. This is because cookies track user behavior; which causes the information and advertisements being presented to each particular consumer to be personalized. This can save the consumer time and frustration!

Benefits aside; I am very open minded regarding the ethics surrounding a companies right to this information. I understand why some individuals would rather deny cookie access as malicious activity could occur. If that is the case; below I have provided a super user friendly guide that breaks down 7 ways to disable cookies!

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Tracking User Behavior

Every time you sign up for a website and provide your email, name, or phone number, you’re giving them access to your information. Once you’re on their site they’re tracking your movements. By entering this personal information you’re consenting that they’re allowed to use and track it.

When you’re the owner of a site tracking user behavior can be extremely beneficial. Sites like Google Analytics allow you to access user data and see how long consumers are visiting the site and which pages they’re visiting. This can help a business better utilize their site and create a better user experience. Analytic breakdowns also allow businesses to view what demographic is visiting the most frequently. While this is a more personal analysis it can be extremely helpful in understanding and narrowing down the target population.

Some companies like Pinterest and Uber are extremely secure when it comes to user information. This means that they have a more ethical business model and they won’t abuse customer information by sharing or selling it. When companies follow a specific protocol, as Pinterest and Uber do, I believe there can be an ethical way of tracking user information.

However, companies like Facebook, Amazon, or any mobile service provider, are quite the opposite. Companies like these track user information and collect it in order to sell it to other companies. When information is taken and sold this way all ethical practices are neglected. Unfortunately, a lot of companies seem to follow in these footsteps.

Tracking user information is an extremely helpful tool. This tool can also be extremely misused therefore I do not believe it is an ethical practice. If more privacy laws were put into place user behavior tracking could remain a good thing. However, without these laws, the practice of tracking user behavior is abused and overall unethical.


Tracking User Data can be Ethical

When something is ethical it is believed that it is the right thing to do. In the digital marketing sphere, personal data is collected from the users. This data includes their demographics, location, and device type. This is personal information about someone that is being used for marketing purposes. Tracking user data can be ethical if it is done to give a better experience to the user.

Users are Informed of Data Collection

Gathering user data can seem unethical at first. This is user’s private information. That is why you will see pop ups on websites informing you on the collection of your cookies. This data is ok to collect because users consent to the collection of cookies when they follow the prompt of the pop up. It would be unethical if the users did not know their information was being gathered.

Customer Interaction Improves

The data is used by digital marketers so they can have have a better understanding of their audience. If they learn that their audience uses their site mostly on mobile than they know to focus on the mobile experience. With the use of the personal information they can create the best possible experience for their users. Since the customer interaction can improve, tracking user data is an ethical practice.

Responsive vs Mobile Friendly Websites. Tracking user data is ethical because it informs marketers on how they can provide a better user experience.

Tracking User Data is Ethical

Websites have to inform their uses on what type of data the cookies track. As long as the information being collected is not shared and is used to better the experience for consumers, collecting user data is ethical.


Is it Ethical to Track Behavior?

With the recent boom of the internet taking over, consumers are able to find what they are looking for at the snap of their fingers. While it is seen it as a good thing to be able to find the newest Nike sneakers or book a hotel room from their personal device, it can also be viewed as a negative thing with the accessibility a company has to view your information.

How does a Company Track your Information?

Google Analytics allows an online business to track pageviews, the amount of time someone spends on a site, and where users click. This information is beneficial to a company to see what features are popular or not. The problem some have with this analytics software is that it also examines “cookies”, which is personal data taken from your device. These cookies track information such as usernames, locations, and user preferences.

Tracking Cookies (Computer cookies): All You Need to Know About it

The Ethical Dilemma…

While digital marketers find user preferences helpful to better market and target their select audience, it is possible this information comes at the expense of the consumer. Some label information tracking to be unethical, but there are views on both sides. Collecting user information is often done without consent, used after viewing the website, and then stored in a database. Over a period of time, these stored cookies from major or frequently visited sites can grow to complete a full profile on yourself and your preferences. This can be seen as extremely invasive to some.

How can a User Avoid Tracking Cookies?

Thanks to recent laws, you can decline to allow cookies on individual websites or clear your devices cookies frequently. If a user is worried about how their personal information is being used and stored across websites, I believe it is up to them to have have the knowledge and understand of what digital tracking is and how to stop it. While it may seem unethical, I believe this is just a part of the evolving technical boom. A user should understand that if they are using a device and connecting to internet, their data will be taken and stored in some fashion or another.

Clear the history and cookies from Safari on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod  touch - Apple Support
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Corporate Responses: Proactive vs. Defensive

As a brand having a social media presence is necessary in order to stay relevant. The point of social media is to start a conversation. The saying “all publicity is good publicity” doesn’t always translate well into the online world. Sure people are talking and commenting on your posts, but is this conversation steered the wrong way?

When a company receives these types of negative comments they have a choice about how they would like to respond. One option is to be proactive and try to amend the wrong they did the customer and try to repair that relationship. The other option is to be defensive and prove why you’re right and the customer is wrong.

Here Whole Foods demonstrates how to proactively respond to a customer. Instead of ignoring this tweet or pushing another product on the customer, they offered solutions. By doing this they received a positive response from their customer and strengthened their relationship with their consumer base.

proactive vs. defensive response

An example of an extremely poor defensive response is that of Pigalle, a restaurant in Boston. Unfortunately for Pigalle their horrible mishandling of this situation caught quite a bit of negative press.

Other than the obvious difference in tone between these two responses the big thing we see here is proactive vs. defensive response. The proactive response errs on the side of “the customer is always right”. Whereas the defensive response is aggressive and distasteful. Proactive responses offer condolences and solutions which creates a positive environment for communication flow. Defensive responses deter customers from engaging with the company and ruin their reputation.

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Authenticity and Social Media

A strong social media presence is all about resonating with your audience. Every business is guilty of self-promoting, that’s how they get their name and their product out there. But the magic of marketing is promoting your product without your consumer noticing. Some of the most successful campaigns are the ones that push a message and not a product.

Companies like Aerie with their #aeriereal campaign are proving that being real and authentic promotes your product on its own. The goal of this campaign is to create body positivity and self-love. Instead of editing and filtering models wearing their products like most companies Aerie took a stand against unrealistic beauty standards. By using models and customers of all shapes and sizes to show off their product Aerie doesn’t even need to add a promotion. I think Aerie shows the perfect balance of self-promotion and authenticity by pairing their products with a strong message that motivates and inspires their consumer base.

Aerie Instagram post

As a brand, your goal is to make sales in order to be successful. This doesn’t mean that your social media accounts have to be flooded with products and sales. For popular, already thriving brands, authenticity should become a key player in how they use social media because it’ll grow their fan base and directly impact their sales. Authenticity on social media is more than possible, it’s proven to be sucessful.

The Importance of Being Authentic

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How SEO Can Get Your Company to the Top

Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of growing the quality and quantity of website traffic by increasing the visibility of a website or a web page to users of a web search engine. SEO refers to the improvement of unpaid results and excludes direct traffic and the purchase of paid placement. SEO is what drives traffic to your website and without proper optimization, it can make or break your business.


One huge reason why a website may not be receiving a lot of traffic is due to its functionality. Many website creators do not factor in the number of mobile users trying to use their website. Websites that are optimized for mobile devices are actually higher in Google’s search algorithm than others which is why mobile functionality is a key to success.


We’re off to a great start!

Naz digital marketing analytics is going to be great.

How this is different than last semester…

Just wait and see.

What we plan to learn…

All things digital!