As a result, customers are increasingly voicing privacy concerns about the recording of all this information which in some cases has led to identity and personal data theft. Millions of people a day now have taken refuge in a very private place that exists until now in a shadowy corner of the Internet: Tor (The Onion Router). It was originally set up by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory ten years ago to let U.S. agents communicate secretly around the world. (Source) More recently, it has become a popular way for thieves, drug traffickers and terrorists groups to communicate anonymously.
Tor’s hidden services feature allow users to communicate information and publish websites without revealing their location. It is now used by large corporations to keep their competitive analysis and board level decisions private. General consumers have started to use Tor to protect themselves on a public Wi-Fi connection (Source). Some also use it to combat discrimination when e-commerce sites show a price based on geography or number of visits.
Consumers want to use Tor to hide their online identify and location, but still interact with all commerce websites. To access the Tor network, users simply need to download its browser, which is free and open sourced for all desktop and mobile platforms. However, most social media and retail sites have blocked Tor users because it prevents them from utilizing cookies and disables Java scripts to track them. For example, using the Tor private search engine, Start Page, most sites do not load or come up very slowly because the Ixquick proxy servicer is used for privacy. However, Amazon does employ Google AdWords on this search page in hopes of getting customers to go directly to their site without a proxy.
With Tor traffic expected to reach almost ten million a day, corporations are now looking at it as an new way to reach prospective consumers (Source). Many are unblocking the Tor browser’s access to their site. Facebook began offering Tor users a method to connect anonymously (Source). (www.facebookcorewwwi.onion ) It seems that Twitter is also starting to let Tor browsers use the social media site without verification (Source). Reddit has donated over $82,000 to help fund Tor (Source). Given growing privacy concerns, the Tor browser may be the future for all consumer web surfing because it allows users to decide if they want to disclose their location and other personal information to be tracked. Some of this can be turned off with other browsers, but most users are not sophisticated enough to be able to do this correctly.
As privacy issues escalate, many online retailers will be forced away from traditional marketing tactics fed by cookie technology or risk losing customers when they go into stealth mode. This trend will reinforce good online marketing techniques:
- Ask prospects and customers to opt in to be contacted by your company again. Dont abuse the privilege.
- When contacting them, add value, just dont sell them your products. Publish content that they value, not just an online product or services catalog.
- Build a trustful relationship over a long period of time so they think of your company when they are ready to buy.
- Build social media connections and community with your customers that they want to participate in regularly.
What will your business do when your customer goes into stealth mode on the Internet?