The Valentine’s Day Gift That Keeps On Giving

Bluemountain is a “freemium” site owned by American Greetings.  That is, it allows some free card sending and also offers a subscription for premium cards.  This card was from a subscription account and retrieved from the person who received the card.  The box above on the right lists the companies that either have placed cookies in the person’s browser in the process of loading the card, or that are checking for previously placed cookies.

The names includes some of the biggest players in cross-site behavioral advertising business.  Bluemountain’s privacy policy isn’t clear about the kinds of data these firms can learn about the recipients of its cards.  Based on what happens elsewhere on the web, one would suppose that what the firms conclude about the receiver’s card-viewing will be connected to other data about the recipient.  (Could the social connections—who sent the card to whom—also be a part of what Facebook and ClearSaleing, and other firms with social-marketing interests are after?)  Inferences about the meaning of these data can affect the ads, discounts, and other content the person gets elsewhere.  Alone the phenomenon may seem trivial.  In the context of streams of data collection, and moving into a future of increasingly sophisticated big-data analytics, it raises important social issues.

The process is transparent; your Valentine recipient wouldn’t normally see it.  This box is the result of a Ghostery application that reveals them.

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1 Response

  1. Danielle Citron says:

    This is fascinating. So the sender can find out where the information is going, though of course not the next chain of users of the data? Do you think it tells us where data processing and use is going? Much thanks, Danielle