Suramya's Blog : Welcome to my crazy life…

June 6, 2021

Startup company working on ways to get identities of all website visitors

Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 10:16 PM

There is an important saying that everyone should remember: “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should!” and I use this very often. Latest in the list of companies that need to know this is a Kansas City-based tech startup called Stealth Data LLC. They are using data mining and machine learning to allow websites to uncover “individual names, phone numbers, emails and physical addresses” of the users who visit the websites. To put the cherry on top the co-founder doesn’t see any privacy issues when doing this. I mean how much more private information do you need to disclose before it becomes a ‘privacy’ issue. Once I have the name, phone no and address there are enough databases already leaked that can give all my remaining information including Social Security# / Aadhaar No etc.

The propoted goal is to allow companies to see details of people who visited their site and then cold call them to pitch their products if they didn’t complete a purchase.

Stealth Data’s third co-founder Chad Sneed experienced marketing frustrations firsthand through his family’s dealership, Dennis Sneed Ford in Gower, Missouri. Sneed, who’s a vice president and partner, said the dealership spends a significant amount on marketing, from search engines to third-party advertising. A bulk of the dealership’s website visitors were anonymous, however, which meant it couldn’t follow-up with visitors to try and close a sale. Sneed wanted to unlock that information and started talking to the dealership’s outside marketing firm, Phame Influence, to see if it was possible. Puckett, who co-founded Phame with Paris, also is a trial lawyer.

“My lawyer hat instantly says no,” Puckett said.

But after digging further, he discovered it’s legal and that using the information for cold calling and emailing is fair game.

“We have absolutely traded privacy for convenience,” Sneed said. “People want a customized experience online. They already know that Facebook turns on your microphone, and they say they do it for speech-to-text, but really they do it to serve you customized ads.”

It is a common mindset of people who are pitching such ideas to claim that people don’t care about privacy and would trade it for convenience. I disagree (obviously) and so do a lot of others. I foresee a lot of lawsuits in the company’s future. It is possible that the practice is legal under the current legal framework (in the US) but I doubt it is legal under the GDPR and other such privacy laws. I think that we really need to look at the privacy laws in more detail soon so that such dubious companies are stopped.

There are many implications of such tech, it can be used to identify people who visit porn sites, whistle blowers, sites can use it to target people who might not want their browsing habits to be revealed. For example, criminals (or governments) can setup a site that caters to LGBT folks and then blackmail them about their identities. This would be a gold mine for anyone planning on misusing it and this company seems to be fine with it as long as they get money.

Source: Slashdot: Startup Stealth Data Working To Uncover the Identities of Website Users

– Suramya

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