Everybody wants to save a dollar or two, so as a result the popularity and the prominence of online coupons and rebate programs has made saving while shopping a lot more easier. Not too long ago, many spent their Sunday mornings sorting through and clipping out coupons out of their favorite magazines and newspapers, now it can all be done online.
Today, you are just able to go to the various Websites offering these coupons and rebate programs from the hundreds of Internet destinations dedicated to these programs. There are now even the large social media based networking sites who are getting in on the act to attract consumers.
Are Online Coupons A Privacy Risk?
Using this online version of clipping coupons however to save money on food and clothing may expose a few privacy risks. Some of these companies who are offering these fabulous looking savings can potentially track the consumers and their online and offline spending habits, which are based on the coupons that they use.
There may be coupon ad tracking companies who actively tracks as well as distributes online coupon distribution and management for a variety of retailers. By doing this, the thinking is that they are able to track as well as follow the coupon users spending habits when they use these online coupons.
Collecting And Tracking Your Personal Data
So these tracking system that may be continuously collecting your spending habits as well as shopping patterns mean to you as a consumer? You looking to save a bit of money on your next purchase decides to sign up on a coupon site through a social networking site, and you find the exact coupon or rebate that you’re looking for.
So you download, print out and take that coupon to the retailer, it subsequently gets scanned, and you enjoy the savings on your purchase. However, you may be absolutely shocked on the actual amount of information that may be disclosed, and is collected by the retailer based on that one purchase.
Once the establishment, whether it be an online or “brick and mortar” retail store, service or restaurant scans that coupon’s barcode, it’s possible that they can actually track it as far back as the exact “search terms” that you used to find that particular coupon. They may be also able to collect your personal information, which may even include your name that you used to Log into the social networking site.
Tracking Your Shopping Habits
These companies can be collecting as well as having complete access to your search habits and your social networking patterns. They may also have access to your exact location, your interests along with your gender and age. Note that it’s the coupon ad tracking company who may be collecting all of this data and not the retailer itself. How this data is used as well as how the data is handled is strictly up to the retailer who is employing the tracking service.
So say you go into a large retailer, make a purchase using that coupon and suddenly the retailer decides to send you a Thank You note for your purchase directly to your e-mail address, while offering you additional deals, coupons or rebates. They or any other retailer, restaurant or service may be able to do so by accessing this by using these tracking services who can be collecting your personal information.
But what may be more surprising to some is that this tracking appears completely invisible to the user. You as the coupon user has absolutely no way of knowing if the coupon that you happen to be using is on a coupon distribution platform or not.
There may be several coupon tracking companies of this type that’s tracking the every move and spending habits of the consumer. They are most likely using social media sites to create targeted online coupon ad campaigns as well. These companies who collect the personal data claim that they do so, simply to be able to reach and serve the consumers better.
How You Can Protect Your Online Privacy
Although the majority of the personal data that’s collected when using a coupon may be completely harmless, you can never be that sure when you don’t know to whom or where this information is being revealed to. So it’s recommended that you at the least adjust your privacy settings profile if you use coupons while logged in. Also, most will recommend that you not use social media sites at all to use any of these online coupon sites for this reason.
A security and personal protection site, reclaimPrivacy.org has a handy tool which will scan your personal profile as well as the account settings. For each of the areas of your account, this site will grade the settings by giving you a Green, Yellow or a Red ranking. If your account settings happen to prompt a yellow or a red warning, the site will then give you specific instructions on how you can change the problematic revealing settings.