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The aim is to create a unified policy, put it in one place and let consumers know where to find it, says chief privacy officer Zoe Strickland. The policy explains how Wal-Mart will market to consumers via text messages.
Wal-Mart, No. 13 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, unveiled the policy last week and will publicize it on Walmart.com and in its stores for 30 days before and after the effective date of Aug. 23, says chief privacy officer Zoe Strickland.
The Wal-Mart policy drew mixed reviews from privacy advocates. A spokesman for the Electronic Privacy Information Center expresses concern that Wal-Mart requires consumers to opt out of receiving e-mail and postal mail, because he says many are unaware of their right to do so. While the Electronic Frontier Foundation has not carefully reviewed Wal-Mart’s policy, a spokeswoman says, “It’s a great idea for companies to make it easy to read and understand their terms of service and privacy policies.”
Wal-Mart will send other communications, such as e-mail, unless the customer opts out. In the preference center, a customer can opt out of receiving not only promotional e-mails, but also of e-mails containing surveys, product reviews and customer ratings. “If you don’t want them, we don’t want to send them to you,” Strickland says.
The inclusion of text messaging covers a marketing vehicle that Wal-Mart has only begun to employ. The retailer has tested during the holiday season sending consumers text message alerts about special offers, but only if they ask to receive such messages, Strickland says. Wal-Mart could also send customers in stores text messages telling them their prescriptions are ready. “That’s a concept we’re looking at closely,” Strickland says.
Sotto says too many companies fail to update their privacy policies to take into account changes in state and federal laws, and developments in technology, such as the increased ability of retailers and other web site operators to track the behavior of Internet users. Privacy policies should disclose what behavior a web site operator collects and how the data will be used, she says.