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PCPartPicker Privacy Policy Update

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philip 6 months ago

You've likely seen dozens or privacy policy updates in recent weeks. That's because the EU GDPR went into effect May 25th. The GDPR changes what sites can do with your personal data without your consent.

Under the GDPR, both emails and IP addresses are considered personally identifying information. We have EU versions of our site listing specific EU retailers, and we store both emails and IP addresses. We've updated our privacy policy to try and make clear our compliance.

Our privacy policy is a bunch of legalese that you probably don't care to read. So instead, here's my take on it, written for human non-lawyer consumption:

  • We do store your email address
  • We do record the IP address you used to post content
  • We do aggregate click data on product pages
  • We do use third-party cookies for page analytics and performance monitoring.

WHAT WE DO WITH YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS

When you first register with the site, we send you a registration confirmation email. Any price drop emails, comment notifications, or price alert emails are all opt-in. PCPartPicker will never send you unsolicited marketing email.

Twice I've sent out unsolicited email, but it wasn't marketing in nature. Once was when a batch of price alerts went out because of a coding error - I sent out an email apologizing for the error to those affected. The other time was for a contest giveaway that I sent a verification request to a subset of entrants (in an effort to identify entry fraud, which it did). I hope you'll understand I sent those emails out not to promote this site, but to both apologize (price alerts) and protect the users (contest).

I want to make it clear to everyone:

  • PCPartPicker will never send you unsolicited marketing email
  • PCPartPicker will never sell your email to a third party

We've been offered money for emails. We've been offered money to sell login instances using hashed emails. We've been offered money to tell third parties any time a hashed email uses the site. We have never accepted any of those deals. We will never entertain a deal like that.

I don't like my email being sold. So, I treat the users of my site the way I'd like to be treated. Your information will never be sold.

WHAT WE DO WITH YOUR IP ADDRESS

We store IP addresses for things like logins, posted topics, posted comments, completed builds, etc. If you're publishing public comments or content, we generally save the IP it was posted from. This isn't to track you, but to protect against spam and abuse.

In the years since we enabled commenting, saved part lists, completed builds, and user provided custom parts, what we've found is that spammers tend to reuse specific IPs or IP ranges. Being able to group up a set of spam accounts to a single IP allows us to ban that IP or IP range. This is generally more prevalent for IP ranges out of some countries more than others, particularly countries that may not have as robust laws penalizing spammy behavior.

Sometimes we have abusive users who get banned for egregiously violating our user code of conduct. It's not uncommon that those users will immediately create an alternate account from the same IP and then continue the abuse. Tracking IP information allows us to ban the IP to prevent further abuse or harassment.

I want to make it clear to everyone:

  • PCPartPicker will never sell your IP information to a third party

WHAT WE DO WITH YOUR PAGE VIEWS

When you view a product page, we increment a counter to note that that product was viewed. When you add a product to your part list, we do the same. When you click through to a retailer for a product, we also increment a counter for that too.

We do those things for a couple reasons:

  • Product views indicate some initial level of interest. We want to know what people are checking out on the site, so we can see if there are market trends we need to be keeping in mind.
  • Product add-to-part-list indicates another level of interest. We generally bubble up those parts to the top of the product category so that users have to spend less time searching for them.
  • Product buy-button clicks indicate a more serious level of interest. We use this to help make sure our retailers are properly accounting for sales referred by us. If we know there are 100,000 buy-button clicks to Retailer A, but retailer A says there were no sales from that product, the odds of there being a tracking error (or worse, fraud) are high. This gives us a quick sanity check - tracking referral sales can often break down due to affiliate network issues.

Sometimes we group those clicks into product categories, such as all Video Cards grouped by chipset. Or RAM grouped by bus type, speed, and capacity. That gives us ideas on where the market trend is heading for video card usage, etc. No IP information is aggregated for that data. We have, on a very limited basis, provided aggregate site-wide (or for a specific country/region) provided manufacturers with data showing where user sentiment was headed. An example of that was showing that, for instance, back when EVGA had issues with VRM cooling, we could demonstrate the effect that had as brand clicks to EVGA GPUs migrated to other brands after news hit.

I want to make it clear to everyone:

  • PCPartPicker will never sell your individual browse habits to a third party

WHAT WE DO WITH THIRD-PARTY COOKIES

PCPartPicker uses two key third-party cookies.

We use Google Analytics to track monthly page views, monthly unique visitors, sessions, desktop-vs-mobile, and other general browsing stats. We don't enable the DoubleClick extensions or tracking. It's purely aggregation that we use to make decisions like when should we build a mobile app, formally support another browser type (or formally stop supporting older unused browser versions, cough, IE8).

We use New Relic for internal performance monitoring. This tells us what pages take what amount of time to render server-side, and then also store a separate cookie to measure how long it took your browser to render the page that we sent you. This is super helpful to us because our development environments aren't always representative of what you all are using to browse the site. If I botch a javascript routine that slows down product category rendering by a second, the New Relic monitoring will let me know. These cookies help us make sure the site is fast to render and load.

Through the GDPR audit process we found that our Facebook like and Twitter tweet button plugins were storing their own cookies when rendered. That's not ok with me, so I removed the like/tweet buttons for now.

Some sites make considerable money by putting in tracking cookies for your browsing habits. We won't do that.

I want to make it clear to everyone:

  • PCPartPicker will never add in third-party tracking cookies for targeted marketing

Thanks for your patience reading all the way through. The main takeaway is that I want you all to know I respect you and your privacy. The information we collect is truly to improve the site, and that's information we don't share with third parties even when they throw buckets of cash at us.

Comments Sorted by:

Captaincow285 14 points 6 months ago

Thank you for not selling out, Phillip. This is one of the things that distinguishes this site from every other, and helped build a large community around it.

Zeromus725 6 points 6 months ago

Does the U.S. already have something like this? If not, do you think they ever will add something similar?

philip staff submitter 10 Builds 6 points 6 months ago

The US has various privacy and spam regulations, but the EU GDPR is a pretty large jump from where things were previously.

Fun misc fact on the US regulations. The CAN SPAM Act of 2003 covered sending commercial email. Among it was that you had to include unsubscribe links (unobscured) and also had to include a business address in it as well. At the time when price drop emails first rolled out, PCPartPicker was still a hobby project that I was working on alone at night from my house. I obviously didn't want to put my home address on the bottom of thousands of emails going out daily, so that's why our P.O.Box first came into being.

Zeromus725 1 point 6 months ago

Cool beanz, Philip!

Jackison 5 points 6 months ago

Best Privacy Policy Update I've seen, thanks for making it easy to read. Appreciate the transparency, you da man, Phil!

DaMysteryMan 1 Build 2 points 6 months ago

Honestly I don’t care as long as you don’t sell my email/info and send out emails announcing you’ve changed your privacy policy so good job!

whatwasthatagendas 2 points 6 months ago

Another reason to love this website!!

hirokie 1 point 6 months ago

Thank you for being out there for us and not selling out.

romanvalkre 4 Builds 1 point 6 months ago

Bravo for being transparent, putting this out there in ways that a non lawyer can read, and for not abusing the trust your user base has shown by signing up:).

WaterTriber 1 point 6 months ago

that makes it much easier to read! thanks

MannyPCs 1 point 5 months ago

This is good to hear, thanks Philip.

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