Publication Details

This case study was originally published as Michael, K, The Online Privacy Frontier, in Lawrence, E, Lawrence, J, Newton, S, Dann, S, Corbitt, B & Thanasankit, T (eds), Internet Commerce: Digital Models for Business, John Wiley & Sons, Australia, 2003, pp. 259-262.


Many web sites pride themselves on offering personalised customer service, but that really depends on the amount of information the online shopper is willing to give the online merchant. In most cases, unless a purchase is made or some other form of transaction is enacted, the online shopper will not declare their identity. How personalised can an experience be online if one entity decides to remain anonymous? The online merchant has little, if any, information to go on apart from perhaps a cookie that tells them that the visitor is a repeat visitor to that web site. The seller does not know anything about the background of the online shopper at the time of browsing - where they are geographically located, whether they are male or female, the age of the individual, etc. The geo-demographic statistical information that directmail campaigns were once based on is almost impossible to gather online unless the customer willingly provides their personal details. It is for this reason that database marketing strategies and techniques have had to be redefined as more and more customers have sought an online experience.