50% of Communications to Private Sellers are Illegitimate: What Does the Future Hold for Online Classifieds?

AutoTrader.com Case Study Prompts Questions at Upcoming ICMA Conference

By Jay Innes, Director of Business Development, Privatis Technology Corporation
Prague_NightWhen Steven J. McAuley takes the podium to present the Privatis-AutoTrader.com case study to the attendees of the ICMA conference in Prague this week, the Privatis Founder and CEO will leverage the practical insights drawn from more than two years working in the sector to pose a few questions and stimulate discussion about current and future industry challenges.

  1. Leadership, Government Scrutiny and Legislative Change: A U.S. Senate Subcommittee studying the robocall problem seems to have the country’s wireless and telecom associations in the crosshairs, taking the extraordinary measure of authoring a public letter calling for a response with details on solutions and legal limitations in the fight against the automated dialer plague. In an effort to address robocalls — the top consumer complaint in the U.S — there seem to be signals that, if the committee is not satisfied with the responses from the associations and other key players, then tougher legislation could be adopted to support the robocall fight. At the ICMA gathering, Steven McAuley will explain how online classified ad sites are used as a lead source to scrape  personal contact information from the ads that is then plugged into the automated dialers. He will pose the following question for the ICMA attendees: If the telecom and wireless associations act to rebuff robocalls and/or penalties are increased for robocallers, what are the possible aftershocks for online classifieds inside the U.S. and beyond its borders?

  2. A Growing Privacy-Seeking Army: Craigslist, the elephant in the room in the classified sector, now offers two-way anonymized email. The privacy move mimics other similar — but limited — offerings in the sector and the online dating world. At least one recent study hints that some of the bloom may be off the social-media-sharing rose for Millennials who desire less public channels to connect confidently while dodging ads and evading stalking relatives. Sure the social media dip may be a blip, but there are other signs of rising consumer demand for smaller, more private portals to communicate and interact. This trend is symbolized by the creation of a site that provides an exclusive, invitation-only classifieds ad network and is further stressed by the popularity of a company providing encrypted, private conversations that sells to governments and Fortune 500 companies. Steven’s questions for the ICMA participants: As the Edward Snowden revelations continue to raise the profile of personal information accessibility and privacy, how will the privacy concerns of your user-base evolve? Will cultural norms and different business models push new thresholds for ICMA members? Steven will then ask the attendees to predict the top three privacy headlines when this group gathers again in 2014.

  3. Changes in Personal Communications and the Impact on Legitimate Sales Connections: Acknowledging that robocalls and harassing telemarketing communications are not going to miraculously disappear by either government edict or tweaks to industry policies, consumers will still have reasons to interact outside of small, closed, personal circles. There may be a threat to the online classifieds business model hinted at in recent headlines, as aggressive measures are taken to provide businesses with new tactics to avoid unwanted intrusions. If businesses are moving in that direction, be assured that consumers will continue to push for solutions that will help put an end to the persistent calls offering credit cards, cruises, online education and magazines. In his interactions with the executives of the online classifieds sector, Privatis CEO and Founder McAuley will survey the group to gather opinions on the ways in which trusted, legitimate communications and consumer interactions will have an impact on business models.

The Catalyst: The foundation for Steven’s dialogue will be the Privatis case study describing the protected, secure communications offered to private seller subscribers of AutoTrader.com. Supported by robust blocking abilities so that legitimate, valuable communications reach consumers, the case study draws from more than 24 months of research and the insights gained from handling more than 1.3 million calls in 2012. With protections anchored by proprietary call blocking algorithms and supported by direct user feedback, Privatis identifies nuisance caller IDs and their unique pitches by also watching consumer postings in the blogosphere. The case study exposes that more than

Privatis_Case_Study_Pie_Chart 50 percent of all communications to private sellers on an online classified site can be deemed “illegitimate communications” – originating from those harassing telemarketers and threatening fraudsters.

“These illegitimate communications are a pervasive and growing problem. The urgency with which the U.S. Senate and agencies like the Federal Trade Commission and FCC are acting to tackle this problem is a sign that this issue is not going away anytime soon,” says McAuley.

“And this is not just a domestic problem, it’s an international problem. I know that the European community suffers greatly from these issues and I look forward to a lively discussion with the other ICMA members.”

What do you think the future holds for online classified sites with respect to privacy protection and shielding sellers from robocall harassment?

 

 

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