Posted by & filed under Hot Topics, MailBigFile, Social.

Was Your Christmas Too Costly In Money and Security and Privacy?

Was Your Christmas Too Costly In Money and Security and Privacy?

Boxing Day. The day after the Big Event and following all that hype, it’s over. Now it’s time to count the costs and start planning for next year. Only 364 online shopping days to Christmas!

This year we spent 54% of our Christmas shopping online, according to early reports. In the year overall, web shopping accounts for around a tenth of total retail spend, but it is gradually increasing.

Put another way, we spend an average of £1000 each online shopping and now top the global tables for the habit. Australians rank second (£842 per head) with Sweden third placed at £747 each in a year.

Over three million Brits did their Christmas shopping entirely online without visiting a single real shop. That’s up by a million in a year. Overcrowding and queues were the main reasons, plus perceived convenience of online purchasing.

Having It Both Ways

The relatively new phenomenon of ‘click and collect’ (order online, physically collect in store) is also growing, up at least 10 % on a year ago. It is a natural corollary to ‘show-rooming’, where people browse in shops then go home to order online at less cost.

This system requires that retailers get their supply side up to scratch or shortages of popular systems quickly occur. As far as stats go, whether ‘click and collect’ counts as online or in store spending depends on where the customer pays for the goods.

Any retailers who do not offer click and collect as an alternative to delivery will soon be staring at cashflow difficulties.

Christmas Cards RIP

Whatever else you spend this season, chances are you spent less on cards. Apart from being crashingly boring, they have started to price themselves out of the market.

The advent of e-cards started the decay off, but now the increase of second class postage charges from 36p to an eye-watering 50p apiece has begun the last rites on the habit of sending messages to each other at this time, secular and religious, near and dear, far and half forgotten.

The average Brit sent 10 cards this year, but more than four times that number of festive messages were sent as Facebook and Twitter best wishes. In the 18-25 year range, six actual cards plus 50m web messages were the norm.

The decline has serious implications for charity fundraising, of course, but it will be impossible to turn the clock back. Physical cards are scheduled for the museums.

Do You Realise What You Allowed?

So, as you bask in the thanks from grateful friends and family for the gifts that you thoughtfully bought online, spare a thought for what your clicking opened up in your security.

Reports now suggest that just a quarter of an hour online browsing caused your data to go round the world to more than 100 companies without your knowledge or consent. If you actually bought something or merely looked, if you downloaded an app or if you left the actual site you started at, made no difference. They tracked you onwards.

Household names such as John Lewis and eBay and even M&S, upload tracker files to computers who have clicked to their websites. These files let other companies monitor your shopping browsing  to build a profile. Why? All the better to target you with personalised advertising, of course.

Robin Henry wrote in the Sunday Times (9 December 2012) that they had uncovered a practice where major stores harvest browsing habits to sell on through cookies. One example he cited was how 600 cookies were installed on one computer in just 15 minutes of shopping.

It’s like an ad note-taking executive following you down the aisles of your supermarket while you shop, then going with you to the next store to see what you bought there.

It’s not illegal and in most cases is in accordance with data protection and industry guidelines. Supporters say the information is anonymous, no person can be actually identified. They say most people prefer targeted ads and it’s a vital part of the web, funding free access.

Privacy campaigners dismiss tracking files covertly installed as ‘mission creep’, with the amount of data so large and varied that digital profiles will soon be linked to personal profiles.

What do you think? Given that ads pay for the net, would you rather have them aimed at you specifically, however the means to do that is gathered? Or is that a step too far, a price too high to pay for your internet?

Related blogs:

Amazon Is Not Yet Quite the Biggest Beast in Retail Jungle, 10 December 2012

It’s the Season to Give Away Lots of Valuable Personal Data, 5 December 2012

Hidden Charges Are the Sting in the Tail of Online Shopping, 4 December 2012

Last Post for Britain’s Post? 21 June 2012

Personal Data: Government Plans a Rich Harvest, 9 April 2012

That’s the Way the Cookies Crumble in Internet Debate, 20 February 2012

Just How Valuable Is Your Web Data? 14 December 2011

Shock and Sell, Cry and Buy: the Slogans of Advertising, 13 December 2011

Image: Matt J