Do Affiliate Marketing Programs Have Access to your Personal Data?

The short answer is no. The online affiliate marketing programs of legitimate platforms and companies aren’t likely to gather personally identifiable information from your device whenever you visit their sites and the mobile apps or portals of the marketing groups, publishers and other businesses in their networks. That’s because their only interest is in crediting an intended action performed by a user who was referred by any of their affiliates to their latest offers. For example, a sale made from a customer who buys a product in Amazon after clicking an affiliate link in an external website or mobile app will be credited to the affiliate who owns that link.

But the referred customer doesn’t need to immediately buy the product after clicking the link for an affiliate to be credited with the commissions for a sale. Many merchants that offer affiliate programs integrate an affiliate cookie timeout feature into their systems. For example, a merchant can provide a 30-day affiliate cookie timeout to their co-marketing partners. This means the affiliate will be credited with commissions for a purchase that’s made by any of their referred customers within 30 days from clicking their affiliate links.

Merchants like TalkingAds integrate a first in, first out (FIFO) protocol into their affiliate marketing systems. This goes with their affiliate cookie expiration protocol. What this means is that a purchase made by a customer within the expiration period after clicking an affiliate link will be credited to the owner of that link even if the customer clicks other affiliate links for the same product within the expiration period. Once the cookie expires, the owner of the next affiliate link clicked by the same customer will be credited with the commissions for the sale if the customer buys within the new expiration period.

But there are also merchants with affiliate marketing programs that do not implement a FIFO protocol into their systems. What they do is to credit the affiliate with the most recently clicked affiliate link. For example, if a customer clicks the link of affiliate A, then that affiliate will be credited with the commissions for a purchase that’s made by the customer within the cookie expiration period. But if the same customer clicks another link for the same product and makes a purchase, then the commissions for that sale will be credited to the owner of the most recently clicked affiliate link.

So this also means your confidential data isn’t compromised in any way when you click these affiliate links from legitimate merchants and affiliates. Your privacy is safe because their only interest is in tracking which affiliate is responsible for sending you to a product page, signing up for an opt-in offer and so on. Other affiliates also integrate their affiliate links in their emails, which you’ll receive whenever you subscribe to the mailing lists of these websites.

There’s also something called retargeting, which is sometimes known as remarketing. This is a method that allows merchants, affiliates and publishers to display their ads to users who have already been to their pages, mobile apps and Web properties. For example, if you visit a website that has been integrated with retargeting code from Facebook, then the next time you visit Facebook, you’ll be able to see in your news feed ads from the owner of that site. But of course, that’s only if the site owner currently has some advertising campaigns in Facebook. To clarify, remarketing and retargeting are offered by advertising networks like Google, Facebook and others. This means publishers and affiliates can do this because you’ve already consented to allow these advertising networks to enter cookies into the browser or mobile device that you use to access their services.

However, there are bad players in any industry. The same is true with affiliate marketing programs. Some merchants and affiliate marketing management platforms that do not have strict vetting processes and pre-qualification requirements can end up with low quality affiliates. Some of these can be spammers and criminal syndicates that are just trying to pose as legitimate affiliates.

These bad players can integrate malicious code into their sites and mobile apps. They can also tamper with the cookie-integration system of these legitimate merchants and affiliate marketing management platforms. They do this to try and steal your confidential data and private information, which they use for their other malicious activities.

So how can you avoid them? How can you protect your privacy and confidential data against their sophisticated malware systems? Here’s a few tips and techniques that can help you do this as painlessly as possible:

How to Protect Yourself Against Tampered Affiliate Marketing Programs

  1. Stay away from suspicious sites, mobile apps and platforms. Poorly designed websites with low quality text are often helpful indicators of Web properties that are operated by spammers and criminal syndicates. These can be integrated by malicious drive-by download functions and browser hijacking code.
  1. Use online security programs that can safeguard your Web browser and other software tools with Internet accessing capabilities. These are often device-specific system security products that also come with local or offline protection protocols. Doing this can alert you whenever tampered affiliate marketing programs are trying to perform malicious operations in your machine after you click an affiliate link operated by a spammer or a criminal group. This allows you to block these illegitimate functions before it compromises your confidential data and privacy.
  1. Regularly update the operating system (OS) of your device. Also do this for all installed programs and apps in your machine. This enables you to benefit from the more secure options and protocols that are constantly being developed by the companies that created your OS and the software products you frequently use.

These are some of the most effective ways for you to avoid tampered affiliate marketing programs from compromising your privacy and confidential data. Don’t forget to enable the real time monitoring feature of your chosen system security program. This way, you’ll be able to detect and block malicious activity in your device before it can access your sensitive files.