From: "Chris Woods" ChrisW@FollowUp.Net
Online Profiling Project - Request to Participate, P994809 / Docket No. 990811219-9219-01
I would like to participate as a panelist in the Online Profiling Project Workshops on November 8. I would be happy to participate in all three sessions but would be more qualified for the first (Online Profiling Technology) and the third (The Role of Self Regulation.) I am:
Please find below a brief biography as well as a recent letter I wrote to Wired Magazine.
Chris Woods is the founder and CEO of, FollowUp.Net, a three year old company that provides a hosted, online customer profiling and target marketing service for retailers, manufacturers and service providers.
FollowUp provides the software and hosts the customer data at its own marketing datacenter. Our clients include several of the largest and most innovative on-line retailers, as well as businesses whose primary distribution channel is "off-line."
FollowUp.Net only develops and works with non-anonymous customer profiles. Our services specifically enable a vendor to profile his existing, known customers through direct surveys and customer-provided, opt-in responses. Our company believes that this is not only the most ethical way to collect customer information, but that it is the best business for the vendor; customer-supplied information is much more useful marketing data than "click stream" analysis and cookie data mining.
Mr. Woods is also the founder and managing director of the Connecticut New Media Association, a four year old, 800 member professional networking and educational organization with the goal of furthering new media business models. The Connecticut New Media Association is not an industry lobby and takes no position on legislation or regulation. The association regularly polls its members to determine industry trends and concerns.
Mr. Woods is also the founder of Townline Community Networks, Connecticut's largest community-based information service, designed as joint effort between public and private interests. Mr. Woods is 40 years old, holds an MBA in Finance from NYU and is married with one child.
To the Editors of Wired Magazine, 10/12/99:
As the CEO of company that tried to make a business with a secure mail application, my perspective - as well as my own experience as a consumer - makes me pause before I can assume that the privacy issue is not more hype than reality. Our experience with the dynamics of the privacy debate included having to re-tool our business model as the security/privacy concerns were overblown in the "new" medium of e-mail.
Remember when consumers were thought to balk at supplying credit card information over the internet? This fear has almost entirely died down (except for the occasional ingenuous survey asking if you'd rather have more privacy or less...) Consumers have gotten used to the reality that credit cards are handed responsibly by the merchants and their isn't that much to be gained by ripping them off. The same goes for secure e-mail, the market is showing the public has eventually found the risks to be minimal, at best.
Obviously, consumer privacy is an important and fundamental issue regarding the future of the Internet. Because of that fact, however, it seems that the Internet companies that hold my own information have acted responsibly.
Personally, I haven't once experienced anything irresponsible with my data. Perhaps an occasional unsolicited promotion from a vendor, but only from those with whom I had directly purchased from or subscribed with. But nothing nefarious. Yes, there is annoying spam, but those advertisers have no profile on me other than having hijacked my e-mail address. As an internet professional I have over 25 online subscriptions and have purchased from more than 50 stores. Unlike the hardcopy publications and real-world stores I patronize, who have routinely sold my name at a hint of a barter deal, virtual businesses have been 100% responsible with my information. If they weren't the reaction would be swift and harsh and entirely self-defeating. Internet businesses know this. The culture of information responsibility is much different, more exacting and more open to "bad reactions" in this newly formed arena, than the one that allowed the TRW's of the world flourish.
As an employer, I have checked out the "Online Investigation" companies that promise to get all sorts of information (dirt) on prospective employees. Their techniques are almost entirely non-Internet based - and often quite effective. This leads me to believe that the opportunity for privacy breaches is much greater off-line than online.
I also run a non-political Internet professional networking organization and recently polled the members as to whether or not they received more or less "spam" e-mail now than they received a year ago. In other words, did the members find themselves more exposed after a year of using the Internet. Believe it or not, the majority said they received LESS spam! The reason they gave was their own practices and their expectations regarding their counter-parties. They had learned to keep their names to themselves, more had moved their e-mail off of AOL (which is notorious for being a place to create spam e-mail address lists) and made fewer newsgroup postings under their own e-mail address, which would tell companies how to contact them.
I read a lot and don't see too many horror stories about people actually losing privacy, but many about the (certainly real) potential to. So I am thinking that this area might be one where the Internet culture really is different.
BTW: Our company changed its business model from providing a secure mail product to one where we provide an opt-in customer profiling and target marketing application service for web merchants. And I can tell you that the first thing they ask us about - and the first thing we insist on in our contractual terms - is to follow the Trust-e policies. We do it so that we play fair with the consumer. The vendors who use our service do it because they currently feel that they would be committing suicide if they did not.