Note: ToolButton responds on privacy

By | July 5, 2003
 Further to my note on the interesting news toolbar ToolButton.  I’ve heard back from ToolButton Inc’s Deb Alloway on the issue of privacy, and here’s her answer:
“While a user has the ToolButton toolbar installed we collect stats on the activity of their ToolButton toolbar.  For example, we will know which buttons they have installed, the menu items they use, the number of times they do a search, etc. We do not track any activity done outside of the functions of the ToolButton toolbar. Another example would be if you did a search for “cats”.  We would know you searched for “cats” but that is all.  We can’t tell which web site you visited from there or any other activity.”
The only problem I can see with this is that over time, that information would reveal quite a lot about the individual user. Say you’d searched for medical terms, or cars, or brands of diapers, quite a thorough picture of your family would be available to ToolButton for marketing purposes. Given that each ToolButton would have to have a unique user ID that information would end up being quite specific.
Lastly, a general thought: it’s quite sad that most folk nowadays, burned by spam and other sleazy marketing devices, don’t trust products like this anymore. I suppose in some ways the companies concerned have only themselves to blame, but abusing Internet users’ trust in the heady early days. My survey of about 100 friends and contacts for Plaxo revealed that nearly all of them considered it a marketing scam. Thoughts, anyone?

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