As if competing on the ecommerce front wasn’t hard enough, just think how tough it gets when your customers get spammed by your competitors, with your expressed written consent!
Building a shopping cart is as easy as buying a book on PHP/MySQL, or hiring a needy computer science major off of Craigslist for a couple of hundred bucks. But if you still need a reason to do it yourself, here is a story out of Reuters that will kick you where it counts: Online Payment Company Settles Privacy Charges.
It seems this company in Utah, CartManager International, was providing shopping cart services for small website businesses. Nice, easy product to market to all those scrapbook and beanie baby shops not already using eBay. But instead of being happy with what they had, these folks decided to cram some “full ownership of data” language in the middle of a two by two scroll windowed user agreement, and then sell their clients’ customer data to third parties. Not too cool, to say the least.
All those clients have customers that are getting spammed to death, and they don’t know why. If the trail ever leads back to the clients, they are going to lose a pack of customers for their niche products, and wind up working for some multi-level marketing company to make ends meet. What a shame.
This points out some of the risks of putting customer data in other hands. This issue is not isolated to big credit tracking companies like Choicepoint, neither are hackers solely to blame. This is an example of purposeful list mismanagement at its finest.
Just in case you are wondering if CartManager has changed its policies since the FTC slapped their wrists, here is a link to their service agreement, so you can see for yourself: Service Agreement; scroll directly to Section 11. Hey, but at least CartManager is “family friendly.”
I hope small businesses think twice about using folks like these. Hire a starving student to write your code instead – you will be happier with the end result, and so will your customers.