customer experience, Report Confirms Challenge For Businesses: Unmasking Anonymous Web Users

Keeping a low profile 30 years ago meant putting the shades down, staying out of social clubs and avoiding phone calls.

Virtually, the public hiding game is a bit trickier, and a new survey revealed most internet users are doing just that -- trying to hide online.

Now You See Me, Now You…Still Do?

The Pew Research Center report reveals that 86% of internet users have taken steps online to remove or mask their digital footprints. They are clearing cookies, encrypting their emails, avoiding using their name and using virtual networks that mask their IP address.  

In other words, at some point they’ve put on their online camouflage and basically hoped to blend in like a leaf in a rainforest.

Also in the report’s findings:

  • 55% of internet users have taken steps to avoid observation by specific people, organizations or the government
  • 59% of internet users do not believe it is possible to be completely anonymous online (37% of them believe it is)
  • 21% of internet users have had an email or social networking account compromised or taken over by someone else without permission
  • 13% of internet users have experienced trouble in a relationship between them and a family member or a friend because of something the user posted online
  • 12% of internet users have been stalked or harassed online
  • 11% of internet users have had important personal information stolen such as their Social Security Number, credit card or bank account information

Not Hiding from Companies

If internet users are hiding online, how can B2B marketers and customer experience web analysts possibly track them with metrics and ultimately create and make spending predictions for their profile? Well, the good news from the survey is that companies ranked near the bottom in terms of who internet users are hiding from.

Only 6% said they have used the internet to avoid companies who are seeking payment from files they download. And another 6% said they try to avoid being seen by companies that run websites they visit.

The No.1 response internet users want to avoid being seen by -- hackers or criminals (33%).

Microsoft Helping Consumers

Online privacy is so important to internet users that Microsoft took steps earlier this year to launch a new campaign to educate internet users about online privacy and security. Microsoft offers a safety and security information page.

Topics are divided into categories, such as security, privacy, family safety and resources, so that users are able to easily find the information they need.

Finding Anonymous Users for Businesses

Some vendors are targeting the anonymous user for business. Demandbase, Inc. last year announced the availability of a Real-Time Identification API for Salesforce.com. Together, valuable customer insight from Demandbase’s proprietary platform used to identify otherwise anonymous web visitors and key corporate data is pushed right into the CRM platform.  

Forbes this year talked about an agency that provides in the B2B space a service that charges $5 per each identified visitor it tracks. Some business leaders said they were OK with the practice so long as it doesn’t violate privacy laws and rules.

Matt Goulart, founder of Toronto digital marketing company Ignite Digital, told Forbes the practice has become commonplace and accepted by internet users, saying, “Now being 2013, I believe a majority of people understand that Google ... tracks and collects a tremendous amount of data about them.”

Title image courtesy of Tyler Olson (Shutterstock)