Risk
8/14/2013
01:28 PM
Kevin Casey
Kevin Casey
Commentary
50%
50%

How One SMB Manages Customer Identity Data

Armed Forces Eyewear sells discounted gear to military personnel and their families. Here's why you won't hear customers grumble about their personal data and online privacy.

Some customers don't mind if you run a behind-the-scenes check on their personal information. It helps if you're giving them a nice price break as a result.

In a sense, Armed Forces Eyewear has it easy when it comes to handling customer data. The online retailer's customers, primarily military personnel and their families, rarely grumble about verifying their identities -- especially if their military status earns them a discount or other benefits.

AF Eyewear, a division of Frames Direct, sells eyewear at up to 30% off retail price -- but only to active-duty military personnel, reservists, and their family members. The site recently expanded its eligible customer base to include veterans and first responders such as police and firefighters. Transactions are completed only after a back-end database check -- and in some cases an extra paperwork request -- verifies that the customer is who they say they are. In an age when a Facebook privacy tweak causes minor mayhem online, AF Eyewear's shoppers don't seem to mind the process.

"We haven't gotten a lot of negative [privacy-related] feedback," said marketing manager Lauren Purcell in an interview. Purcell, whose spouse serves in the military, noted that it's long been common for military families to show extra identification when shopping offline if it gets them special pricing and other perks. That habit has translated for online shopping and other Internet use. "It's kind of an accepted practice in the military world: If you're going to get a discount, you've got to step up to the plate and prove it. Most people don't have a problem with that."

[ New technology can thrive even in old-fashioned businesses. Read How To Innovate In A Low-Tech Industry. ]

It's a sunnier side of the often stormy environment of online privacy, consumer data breaches, social media scams and other information security matters.

Military culture and a good deal on a pair of Ray-Bans or Oakleys aren't the only factors that keep customer privacy concerns to a minimum at AF Eyewear. The company doesn't use more than the customer's name and date of birth to verify current and former military status. According to Purcell, this is a welcome change from the not-so-distant days when military ID cards included social security numbers in plain view.

Most shoppers probably don't even notice the verification process, which checks customer information against government databases, as it happens. AF Eyewear once partnered with the online arm of the Army & Air Force Exchange Service to authenticate military status. It recently began using the SheerID verification service, in part so it could broaden its audience to include veterans and first responders. The latter group, which includes law enforcement and other emergency personnel, must complete additional paperwork at the time of purchase. That can take as long as 30 minutes, a lifetime relative to the one-click shopping expectations fostered by Amazon Prime and similar online services. Even then, though, Purcell said AF Eyewear customers don't seem to mind.

AF Eyewear doesn't store any sensitive customer data, another asset in managing privacy concerns. The company's decision to expand its customer eligibility rules and corresponding verification process was a major requirement in its build-versus-buy decision. "That was our biggest issue if we were going to develop something in-house," Purcell said. "We didn't want to [store] that information."

As with most e-commerce sites, fraud and other security matters are top of mind. Purcell credits FramesDirect, AF Eyewear's 60-person parent company, for strong fraud prevention protocols. But the military ID check itself keeps scammers at bay.

"With AF Eyewear, we don't experience much fraud because we are going through that validation process," Purcell said. "We've had a few cases here and there, but it's not as prevalent as it is in our FramesDirect.com site [which sells to the general public]."

It also helps that AF Eyewear doesn't ship internationally; that alone slashes fraud dramatically. When its customers are deployed overseas, they typically use an APO address via the military mail system.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
OtherJimDonahue
50%
50%
OtherJimDonahue,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/15/2013 | 11:11:09 PM
re: How One SMB Manages Customer Identity Data
How do you think this translates to more-general audience? As you note, military families may be more open to showing ID.
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Dark Reading Tech Digest, Dec. 19, 2014
Software-defined networking can be a net plus for security. The key: Work with the network team to implement gradually, test as you go, and take the opportunity to overhaul your security strategy.
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2014-5208
Published: 2014-12-22
BKBCopyD.exe in the Batch Management Packages in Yokogawa CENTUM CS 3000 through R3.09.50 and CENTUM VP through R4.03.00 and R5.x through R5.04.00, and Exaopc through R3.72.10, does not require authentication, which allows remote attackers to read arbitrary files via a RETR operation, write to arbit...

CVE-2014-7286
Published: 2014-12-22
Buffer overflow in AClient in Symantec Deployment Solution 6.9 and earlier on Windows XP and Server 2003 allows local users to gain privileges via unspecified vectors.

CVE-2014-8015
Published: 2014-12-22
The Sponsor Portal in Cisco Identity Services Engine (ISE) allows remote authenticated users to obtain access to an arbitrary sponsor's guest account via a modified HTTP request, aka Bug ID CSCur64400.

CVE-2014-8017
Published: 2014-12-22
The periodic-backup feature in Cisco Identity Services Engine (ISE) allows remote attackers to discover backup-encryption passwords via a crafted request that triggers inclusion of a password in a reply, aka Bug ID CSCur41673.

CVE-2014-8018
Published: 2014-12-22
Multiple cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerabilities in Business Voice Services Manager (BVSM) pages in the Application Software in Cisco Unified Communications Domain Manager 8 allow remote attackers to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via a crafted URL, aka Bug IDs CSCur19651, CSCur18555, CSCur1...

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Join us Wednesday, Dec. 17 at 1 p.m. Eastern Time to hear what employers are really looking for in a chief information security officer -- it may not be what you think.