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Commerce Department, Ma’am. Privacy Division

I can see it now. The black screen, the ominous ba bum sound and then the words, Law & Order: Privacy Division. They’re federal agents who put their lives on the line every day so that you, the internet user, can surf without fear of being molested by targeted Old Navy ads and free lunch coupons on your birthday. Sure they’re making it hard for the small business marketer to sell his wares, but hey, that’s the way the browser cookie crumbles. Get over it.

So, maybe it won’t be on next fall’s TV schedule, but it may be coming to a computer near you, if the federal government gets their way. Yesterday, the Commerce Department released the Internet Policy Task Force Privacy Green Paper which is loaded with recommendations “aimed at promoting consumer privacy online while ensuring the Internet remains a platform that spurs innovation, job creation, and economic growth.”

Mall of America Runs a Twitter “Parking?” Party

Twitter parties are all the rage with social media moms, but this Saturday, Mall of America is taking that concept one step further with the “Big Secret Parking Party.”

Everyone knows the horror of holiday parking at the local mall, but imagine the nightmare at the biggest mall in the US! It’s enough to make even the jolliest person turn into the Grinch. So this year, for the first time ever, Mall of America will be rewarding their loyal Twitter followers with a VIP ticket to the best parking around.

The event is being run through EventBrite where batches of tickets are being released twice a day for a total of 96 spaces. To claim a ticket, a person must follow the mall on Twitter and provide their Twitter name. There are also very specific times for arrival and a print out of the registration is required.

Holidays, Charity and Daily Deals

In an interesting look at the daily deal phenomenon that has everyone chattering in the recent past, some researchers have taken a look at whether daily deals influence how people do two things related to giving (at least in theory): holiday shopping and charitable giving.

First, eMarketer reports on data from another daily deal player, Eversave. Of course, we offer the usual “remember the source!” warnings since someone like Eversave has a vested interest in getting the word out to fight against the Google of the deal space, Groupon.

This first chart relates to how people may or may not turn to deal sites for holiday shopping.

Free Shipping is the Battle Cry This Holiday Season

Free shipping! Online retailers are shouting it from the rooftops and it could be the key to staying out of the red this holiday season. ComScore worked the numbers and discovered that unlike last year, the percentage of transactions with free shipping continued to rise after Black Friday. Last year, free shipping orders dropped to 45% late in November, but this year they climbed to 55.1%.

I do the majority of my holiday shopping online and I noticed this trend long before I saw this report. Nearly every online store I visited was offering free shipping on any size order. That’s not just a boon for people buying a whole sleigh full of presents from one retailer. A no threshold offer encourages people to buy small items that would have been too pricey with shipping included like a $5.00 pair of slippers from Kohls.

Could A Mere $183 Million Spell Trouble for Groupon?

Yesterday, I took a look at whether Groupon’s decision to pass on Google’s ridiculously generous offer of around $6 billion for the 2 year-old company was a good move. One thing that wasn’t looked at was the investment that was made in the competing deal site, LivingSocial, totaling $183 million ($175 million from Amazon and $8 million from Lightspeed Venture Partners). In the end, could an investment that equals about 3% of what Google offered Groupon be the beginning of the end of Groupon’s dominance of the online deal space?

With LivingSocial their investment didn’t come from just anyone. No, in fact with Amazon leading the way this money is very real and it bodes well for the company currently viewed as the ‘other guy’ in the space (not to mention the myriad smaller players and branded versions of Grouponesque offerings as well.).

Was Groupon’s Rejection of Google the Right Move?

Groupon knock –offs breathed a huge sigh of relief as they category maker in online deals rejected the lavish offer of around $6 billion in total that Google put on the table last week.

According to a Bloomberg article

Groupon Chief Executive Officer Andrew Mason, who started the company in 2008, had concerns about the strategic direction it would take under new management and what could happen to his employees if he sold to Google, according to a person familiar with the matter, who declined to be identified because the discussions were private.

If there was ever a chance to ‘take the money and run’ this one was it. Why? In my opinion, it’s because although Groupon has the lead in the online deal space right now, it is more about being first rather than being better or, more importantly, hard to replicate.

eBay Buys Local Shopping Site Milo.com

eBay took another step today toward becoming Amazon.com and away from the collectibles auction site we all fell for more than ten years ago when they bought Milo.com, a website that locates in-stock merchandise on the local level.

According to Business Insider, eBay payed $75 million for the company and they seem to think it’s a good buy. It may be because, as we all know,  when it comes to deals and shopping, local is everything these days. Local isn’t even a buzzword anymore, it’s a god marketers must bow down to every morning and I don’t like it.