Today’s proliferation of software tools, mobile browsers and much more makes how visitors view and how servers serve up websites extraordinarily complex. For this little blog here, I can tell extraordinarily details about the last few visitors and even give those folks a unique experience showing them their local weather and nearby businesses.
It’s so creepy to know just how much detail is available.
So you can imagine a company that wants to pour financial resources into it can actually play some proverbial mind games with competitors. Such was the case recently as someone noticed viewing the website on a competitor within the company’s network resulted in a much different experience that viewing it from home or on their tablet’s browser, which took advantage of a cellular provider’s network.
In the case of this particular company, the navigation appeared to show less options and the product selections within the web database proved to be significantly limited when the server detected the visitor came from a competitors’ hosts.
Innocuous as this seems, it does hint at something a bit more insidious that could be created. Consider creating multiple websites with varying versions of truth and falsehood and based on a series of intelligence in detection from browsing patterns along with information from the IP and geographical details (especially available from mobile browsers), present the visitor with everything from accuracy to errors.
For example, the hospitality industry queries one another to determine what the local hotel rates are within their area and adjust accordingly. Imagine if Marriott starts purposely showing Starwood inflated rates.
In a competitive situation, a company might go so far as to show completely false press releases and fake pricing to a competitor.
Is that legal?
Even more compelling, what if Delta Airline’s based its airfare on from where the visitor is querying. In subtle ways, upscale locations will pay more but perhaps get more included features or shown different options. This all based on geography, demographics and browsing habits.