The Wall Street Journal's tech section reports on how Clearspring Technologies, a provider of "social distribution solutions" and the owner of AddThis, a consumer bookmarking service on the web is is collecting consumer information to resell it to advertisers and marketers based on behavioral patterns gleaned by its aggregation of data.
The Journal notes that The AddThis "button" enables consumers "to alert friends and contacts to interesting or useful
material on the Web. For instance, with a click, a news article could
be sent to a friend over email or posted to a site like Facebook Inc.
More than 1.5 million web properties have implemented AddThis, hoping
the easy links—and implied endorsements— help drive traffic."
While AddThis emphatically denies that it collects information about consumers on all the sites that
feature its button or that it allows websites to opt out of the advertising data
collection, it nevertheless is used by a range of reputable firms including Meredith's Better Homes and Gardens; Time Inc.'s Time and Sports Illustrated; News Corp.'s MySpace and Fox.com; WebMD, and Drugstore.com. The button's astonishing reach is stated to be 169.4 million unique U.S. visitors, or about 95% of U.S. Internet users per the internet marketing research service comScore Inc. Interpublic Group's digital advertising unit Cadreon has tested
Clearspring's data to help buy ads targeted at consumers who expressed
interest in technology, automotive, consumer electronics, telecom and
financial services, and luxury goods.
Surprisingly, thus far, hospitality companies are yet to add the button which, without gleaning behavior patterns from cookies that could compromise the privacy of guests, arguably could form part of an effective viral marketing program. Hotels also seem absent in another somewhat related sphere, that of visual search. Like.com, a pioneer in the field of visual search that has just been acquired by Google. While the site does not offer a visual search for hotels, the idea is likely to be picked up before long, particularly since it is a part of Google now, whereby potential guests visually "shop" for hotels based on location, price, features and amenities.