Friday, December 30, 2005

Web Trends gets caught with hand in WhiteHouse Cookie Jar

Happy Holidays... boy you hate to see stories like this one when you're out there trying to get every web analytics contract you can.

It seems that the folks on the Whitehouse Web Site use Web Trends, and someone at the AP decided to check and see if anything at the site set a cookie. Of course the folks at Mr. Bush's current address think like a lot of us, that it is nice to know some basic trends about the visitors to their site, so they went out and purchased Web Trends hosted edition to do some basic web analytics. Uh oh... that's not allowed on a Government Web Site there gang.

With the recent revelation that the NSA site too was setting cookies (setting the privacy hawks into a bit of an uproar about ANY government site EVER setting a cookie), why didn't the folks on Mr. Bush's staff pick up on this right away? Bad PR move there gang. It goes to show that you need to know what is going on with your site... and the folks that RUN a site need to have a basic technical understanding of how all of the parts operate.

This does have impact for retailers. We all set cookies for web analytics (if you have any of the major packages like Omniture, Web Trends, HBX, CoreMetrics) . Some retailers are setting 3rd Party Cookies on their sites for Web Analytics (either using hosted versions of their WA suite, or to do things like track affliate performance... or keyword search program performance). I think we can expect that the press is going to make this an issue in 06. So, we'll need to be prepared, beyond what the Whitehouse is saying (our "contractor" did it without us knowing). Ultimately we're responsible for what our sites do. When you sign up for that "service" to help you track something, or if you use these now, you'd better be prepared to explain why this is a benefit and NOT a privacy invasion.

This issue is only going to get "hotter" in 2006. Combining the mainstream media's inability to grasp technical topics, with the overall sentiments in the court of public opinion that cookies are bad, we as retailers are going to need to partner with our WA providers to get a positive message out. The folks at the Web Analytics Association are starting to do that. If you haven't checked out their resources yet, it might be time.

Happy retailing everyone. Hope to see some of you in Atlanta!!!

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