Saturday, April 11, 2009 Doesn't Understand or Doesn't Care that Your Address Is Private? (Updated: No, They Just Communicate Badly)

(Important update 4/26/09. See below.) has a neat new real-time visualization of orders and their locations ( Publishing locations of orders seems like a big privacy problem to me; I contacted them using their online form about the issue. Both my note and their completely useless/clueless reply are below.


I was just looking at your visualization of orders at It's an extremely cool visualization.

However, I have a concern: Addresses and locations are private data. If you're not adding a fuzz factor or taking other steps to protect your customers' privacy, then you are committing a quite severe privacy violation and need to take down the visualization immediately.

If you are adding a fuzz factor, you need to add information to the visualization clearly explaining how you are protecting said private data, to avoid worrying your customers.

Thank you!

Hello Reid,

Thank you for contacting the Customer Loyalty Team.

Here at Zappos, our customers are our first priority. We work hard to preserve the trust that we build with our customers. respects your privacy and wants to protect your personal information. Please know that does not share or sell any of our customers' information.

If you have any further questions or concerns, please let me know.

Reid, I hope this information was helpful to you and we look forward assisting you again in the future!

We are constantly striving to improve our service. If there is anything more we can do for you or if we could improve your experience, please do not hesitate to let us know. We are always here for you - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. We are a service company that just happens to, bags, clothing, and accessories. 1-800-ZAPPOS-1 (1-800-927-7671) or 702-943-7677.

Thank you for shopping with us,

Lauren S.
Customer Loyalty Representative
Powered by Service!
The Web's Most Popular Shoe Store!
Phone: Toll-free 1-800-ZAPPOS-1 (927-7671)

Update 4/27/09:

I received another e-mail from Zappo's customer service on the 20th, as follows, emphasis mine:

Hello Reid,

I hope you are having a good day. I wanted to contact you in regards to your concern over our new order map program. is a service based company that genuinely cares about our customers and would never reveal information that would affect their privacy. We do not reveal any details in the map beyond the zip code of the purchase and what item was purchased. This can be a great trend-finding tool to help our customers in their shopping. If you click on the picture of the product, it will take you to the page for that item on our site. All of our customer's identifying information, including name or specific address, is kept private and only used for the purpose of their orders.

I apologize for any confusion with this new program. If you have any further questions or concerns at all, please do not hesitate to contact us back. We want you to be assured that we care about our customer's privacy. Please also see our Privacy Policy:

I hope this helps to clear things up for you. Again, please call or e-mail us any time if we can be of any additional assistance.
So, it appears that while Zappos is rather clueless about communicating it (there still isn't any indication of the granularity of locations on the visualization), they aren't committing the gross privacy violation I was originally concerned about.

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