Does Digital Marketing Privacy Exist?

Common sense expectations of privacy are nowhere near reality: Does it need to be this way?

by | Sep 17, 2018

Digital marketing privacy -- not on Facebook

Just because we delete Facebook does not mean Facebook has deleted us. (Image by Unsplash)

Ubiquitous Invasions of Digital Marketing Privacy?

How are you getting traffic to your website?

Are you (knowingly or not) invading someone’s privacy in order for them to visit your site? Digital marketing privacy can be difficult to maintain if you’re paying for people to visit your site.

How do you currently get people to visit your website? Have you ever studied the analytics of how people arrived at your website? One of the most beautiful and powerful aspects of online marketing is being able to clearly determine where your traffic comes from.

In the world of online marketing and advertising, The jargon that is used to describe “web visitors “ is called “traffic

Direct versus Referral Traffic

There are several different ways that people can arrive to your website. They are:

  • Direct visitors
  • Referrals

Direct traffic is when someone types your website URL into their browser directly. They type in your URL homepage. For example,

The tricky part is when it comes to referrals. There are so many different ways to receive referrals traffic. Let’s take a closer look at the different types of referral traffic.

Different types of referral traffic are:

  • Paid search engine traffic
  • Paid banner advertising
  • Search engine marketing
  • Video search engine marketing 
  • Paid text links
  • Affiliate referrals
  • Organic search traffic
  • Organic video traffic

Paid versus Free Traffic

This list may not be exhaustive and may not include every type of referral visitor. But overall, this list includes every type of referral traffic or website visitor that you can expect.

Breaking this list down into two groups, one can see there are essentially two types of referral traffic: paid and free.

Organic traffic is free traffic. Organic website visitors come to your site because they were looking or searching for what you have to offer.

Digital Marketing Privacy can be respected by using organic traffic generation methods.

“Personal consumer information must also be closely protected because of the ways in which it can be used for questionable or illegal purposes.”

— Michelle Manafay, (link)

Do you pay for traffic?

Now let’s consider the other sources of website visitors, also known as traffic, that comes to your website. In almost every situation, when you are paying for traffic, you are engaging in something called behavioral marketing. Behavioral marketing, if it hadn’t been invented or given such a friendly name 10 years ago, would be considered illegal by today standards.

Behavioral marketing occurs when companies gather data about people and their behaviors on the web and use that data for advertising purposes.

The Facebook/Cambridge Analytica Scandal

In the spring of 2018, the social media giant Facebook was caught in a scandal. It was learned that a company, Cambridge Analytica, was one of Facebook‘s partners. As a Facebook partner, Cambridge Analytica had access to and was receiving from Facebook vast quantities of user data. This information, this private information, was then used to tailor advertising to Facebook users.

By the nature of Facebook, people put in their personal information: their name, through email, their date of birth, where they live, and so on. There have also been reports that Facebook has been accessing private messages between people, and using this information to serve what they call “more relevant advertising“.

Stalking is not yet illegal in the Digital Marketing world

What many people don’t realize is that Facebook is always following you around on the web. Even after logging out.

In other words, Facebook knows all of the sites that you visit, all of the pages that you visit, and how long you are on that page. They know every click that you make, every add that gets her attention, and everything that you bye.

Facebook then takes this information and mixes it in to their own data set that they use as a pool of information to provide to advertisers.

Does this sound like a company trying to protect your digital marketing privacy?

Marketing companies love Facebook’s behavioral targeting, even if they think it should be illegal.

When faced with the question of whether not Facebook sells private information, the CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, is thought to have lied to Congress.

In any other situation, this would be considered a lie.

Just because Facebook doesn’t market and sell personal use her information and data explicitly, doesn’t mean that they are not selling it in one form or another to their advertisers.

Digital Marketing Privacy Invasions are a Feature

As an example, let’s take a look at the automotive industry.

Let’s say for example that a large car manufacture, say, Toyota, installs Bridgestone tires on all of the cars. If asked, “does Toyota sell Bridgestone tires?” It would make sense if someone said, “no we don’t.”

Perhaps Toyota does not sell Bridgestone tires directly, but they do sell Bridgestone tires as a part of the complete package of the finished all the bills that they sell.

It is in this way but Facebook aggregates, collects, repackagers, and then indirectly cells end user data to advertisers.

Let’s be clear: Facebook once it’s advertisers advertising campaigns to work. If advertising campaigns work, advertisers will continue to spend money with Facebook. It didn’t make sense that Facebook will do everything that they can to ensure that appetizers campaigns perform well.

Because of this, Facebook indirectly makes user information available to advertisers, in the hope that advertising campaigns will be more effective. This means that advertises will continue to spend more and more money with Facebook, bringing Facebook more and more profits.

Logging into Instagram does more than just log you into Instagram. (Photo by Unsplash)

Everybody’s doing it

To single Facebook out as the sole perpetrator of this questionable ask would be wrong. Facebook is definitely not alone and taking using collected information and repackaging it for sale to the marketplace.

Many people would argue that the largest companies on the Internet (such as our favorite search engine) practice such tactics.

And this type of behavior is not only limited to the largest companies on the Internet. There are literally hundreds of companies involved in the buying and selling of user information.

And while Facebook maybe in the news, there are literally hundreds of other companies involved in the same type of behavior. And yet these companies are not held accountable.

Digital Marketing Privacy is being violated by some of the world’s largest companies, and thousands of smaller ones. And millions of other companies violate privacy by buying services from these companies.

Is Behavioral Marketing Legal?

While some countries – notably do United States and Canada — have yet to adopt more protective legislation, such measures have been enforced in Europe for some time. In fact, because of the recent Facebook scandal, European Union is pushing for further measures for privacy and the use of user information and data.

It’s still such time that more countries adopt protective measures for the protection of end-user information, data collection, and it’s buying and selling, most advertisers in the western market place are safe. As soon as either the marketplace or legislative bodies start practicing more protective behavior of end-user information, expect behavioral marketing to drop off a cliff.

When it becomes illegal – or the marketplace realizes that engaging in such deceptive behavior is morally questionable – any type of advertising platform that uses behavioral marketing in anyway will fail to become a viable path for advertisers.

Don’t rely on paying for traffic

And in much the same way that removing your credit card and stopping your paid advertising campaigns will result in an immediate flow of traffic stopping, so too will this affect it be felt in the paid website visitor marketplace.

As a result, companies relying on paid advertising will suffer from a dramatic drop in website traffic.

Invest in your company’s brand, your clients, and your prospective clients. Consider the entire eco-system in which your organization functions and thrives. And help people maintain their privacy with your digital marketing efforts.


Robert Yee is the founder of RPowerMedia, and has worked in digital advertising since 2001.


6600 Trans-Canada Highway
Suite 750
Pointe-Claire (Montreal), Quebec

Follow this link to our contact form


We take a wide-view to narrow down to specifics. We specialize in providing honest feedback and actionable steps.

  • Digital Strategy Consulting
  • Thought Leadership Consulting
  • Content Marketing


Privacy Statement

GDPR Compliance

Social Responsibility

Giving Back - AlwaysGiving