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Almost three-quarters of businesses admit that tracking of customer data happens, but without consent.

According to research from Zoho Corp, a survey of 1400 business leaders about third party ad tracking found 100% of respondents said their companies allow it, and 57% are “comfortable” or “very comfortable” with the way third-parties use customer data. However, 72% admit they know that tracking happens but do not inform customers.

In the USA and Canada, 62% of companies don’t inform customers that they allow tracking code from third-party services on their websites, despite the majority claiming to have well-defined consumer data privacy policies that are strictly applied.

Raju Vegesna, Zoho’s chief evangelist, told Infosecurity that he believed businesses have a moral obligation to be transparent with customers about what data they collect and who they share this sensitive information with.

“Our survey findings show an alarming disconnect between how business leaders view the strength of their privacy policies and what information they keep secret from customers,” he said. “Right now, our remote workforce is reliant on software solutions to continue business operations; business leaders need to put themselves in the position of their customers and ask ‘as a user, do I want to be tracked?’ ”

However, he claimed many businesses are failing this ethical test, which shows they care more about profits than privacy. “We shouldn’t have to wait for regulation to spur businesses to take stronger stances on consumer data privacy protections,” he said.

Asked if businesses should be more transparent on what is collected, and who they supply this data to, Niamh Muldoon, senior director of trust and security at OneLogin, said: “Leaders in trust and security have built their brand and reputation with their customers by being transparent with the use of data while providing assurance that appropriate controls are in place to protect the data as it is inputted, processed and stored.

“The survey results highlight the lack of awareness and understanding amongst business leaders on how to build trust and security into a brand and use it as a key business differentiator.”

Matthew Pahl, security researcher at DomainTools said businesses will continue to place profit over privacy. “As soon as it becomes unprofitable for businesses to allow widespread tracking of customer habits and data, we will see a change in corporate practices.”