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What the top six beauty companies do with your data

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It would be hard to find someone today that’s never online shopped. But, with more of us moving online to buy everything from food to foundation, companies have more data on their customers than ever before.

So what exactly do some of the biggest beauty companies, which soared in popularity during lockdown, know about you? And what do they do with this information? We’ve read through their privacy and cookie policies and answered these questions below, so keep reading if you’d like to find out - some of the answers may surprise you!

⚠️When we list the data a company collects on you this doesn’t necessarily mean the company shares all this data with advertisers, they may only share some of it. But, a full list allows us to see what data could be accessed if there’s a data breach/cyber-attack- we look at this in the ‘Have they made any big data-related headlines?’ section.

Boots

If you’ve ever needed to take care of your skin, hair or paracetamol needs, it’s likely you’ve given Boots a visit. Boots is the UK’s leading health and beauty retailer and serves about 8 million customers a week in the UK and Ireland.

What data do they collect on you?

Some examples of the data Boots collects on you include:

  • Name, address, age, gender and contact details
  • Adverts you may click on (including those shown on other organisations’ websites)
  • Purchases and browsing behaviour
  • Which emails you open from Boots, and what links you click on.
  • (From the pharmacy) appointment information and prescriptions
  • (If you opt in to marketing) information posted publicly on social media, to understand what customers think and feel about Boots

Do they share your data with third parties for advertising purposes?

Yes.

Boots analyse your data to ‘maximise the effectiveness of [their] advertising’.

Who with?

Boots is vague in both their privacy notice and cookie policy about who exactly they share your data with. All they say is:

‘These cookies are used to deliver adverts more relevant to you and your interests...this information is shared with other organisations such as advertisers’.

We do know that Boots share data with ‘social media platforms such as Facebook’, but that’s about it unfortunately.

We also found a pretty alarming statement on the Boots website:

‘In the coming months we will be providing you with extra control, by giving you the option to consent to cookies when you visit Boots-uk.com.’

We feel like this should already be in place, especially for such a widely used company.

Have they made any big data-related headlines?

Yes. A pretty recent one.

In 2020, the BBC reported on Boots’ suspension of payments using loyalty points after a cyber-attack attempted to break into customers' accounts using stolen passwords

You might be wondering why we’re having a look at the data-related headlines of a company. Well, we think it can be pretty insightful- although above all we value the privacy of your data, we think the security of your data is also extremely important. What’s the point in private data if anyone can get hold of it and use it however they want anyway?

So, it could be a good idea to take into consideration any major data-breaches of a company before allowing them to collect your data. But, please also take these headlines with a pinch of salt. Just because something is or isn’t in the news doesn’t mean a company is necessarily better or worse with data protection: not all data breaches are reported on or even detected.

Find out what data boots has on you

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Superdrug

Superdrug is the second largest health and beauty retailer in the UK, after Boots. It had a pre-tax profit of £88.3 million in 2018, shows a continuous increase in online sales and has an impressive number of 800 stores across the UK.

What data do they collect on you?

Superdrug has a 3 minute animated video to help explain their privacy policy, which we love to see! It’s always great when companies make the extra effort to explain what can be a pretty dull and lengthy read of information- it’s important to fully understand what’s happening with your data.

Below are some examples of the data Superdrug collects on you (the first point may surprise you, we were surprised by it too 🤔).

  • Information about your lifestyle e.g. your hobbies and interests
  • ‘Favourite store’
  • Products you view on their site and the brands you prefer
  • Name, gender and address
  • Contact details and payment details
  • Order history and wishlist

Do they share your data with third parties for advertising purposes?

Yes.

Superdrug says that (with your ‘consent’ to their privacy and cookie policy) they will share your data with ‘advertisers, advertising agencies, advertising networks, data exchanges, etc.’.

Who with?

Superdrug share your data with:

  • Facebook
  • Google
  • Microsoft/Bing
  • Official-coupons.com
  • Official-deals.co.uk
  • Smct.io

Have they made any big data-related headlines?

Yes.

In 2018 the Guardian reported that hackers claimed to have obtained the names, addresses, dates of birth and phone numbers of 20,000 Superdrug customers. Superdrug said it had only seen evidence that 386 of the accounts had been compromised.

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Beauty Bay


Beauty Bay is based in Manchester in the UK and is known for selling a range of products in skin care, hair care and makeup from established brands across the world. It supports 60 million consumers worldwide and had an annual revenue of $112.88 million in 2019.

What data do they collect on you?

Below are examples of the data Beauty Bay collects on you:

  • The pages you visit on their site and any links you click on
  • Name, title, address and date of birth
  • Order history, browsing history and wish list
  • IP address, browser type and device type
  • Perks redeemed from any loyalty scheme

Do they share your data with third parties for advertising purposes?

Yes.

Beauty Bay uses the information they collect on you to ‘make [their] website and the advertising displayed on it more relevant to your interests’, they ‘may also share this information with third parties for this purpose’.

Who with?

Beauty Bay uses the social media platforms we’ve listed below to add features to their website e.g. Facebook’s ‘like’ button. But, ‘these services often store their own cookies’ i.e. these companies are able to use the data shared with them for advertising purposes if they want, infact, Beauty Bay says ‘these cookies are likely to be analytical/performance cookies or targeting cookies’.

The companies Beauty Bay share your data with are:

  • YouTube
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • ‘advertising networks’

As you can probably tell by the Beauty Bay quotes we’ve included in this section, Beauty Bay is disappointingly vague about exactly who they share your data with and whether or not it’s for advertising purposes. We can do our best to read between the lines, but Beauty Bay- we think you can, and should, do better to be more transparent with your customers about what you do with their data.

Have they made any big data-related headlines?

No.

Perhaps lacking on the privacy policy front, it seems Beauty Bay has excellent security measures in place, they have this stated on their website:

‘In over 15 years trading, we are pleased to report that we've never had a security breach’.

Delete data with beauty bay

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Look Fantastic

Founded in 1996, Look Fantastic is a popular online premium beauty retailer across Europe. It’s sold over 660 different beauty brands and it’s revenues have grown 40% year by year in the last 4 years.

What data do they collect on you?

Some examples of the data Look Fantastic collects on you include:

  • If you shop in one of their stores
  • Pages viewed and whether you clicked on a link in their email
  • Name, address, contact details, gender and payment details
  • Order history
  • Interactions with Look Fantastic e.g. if you contact their customer service team or interact with them on social media
  • The device you use to access the site

Do they share your data with third parties for advertising purposes?

Yes.

Look Fantastic share your data with ‘advertising partners’ to ‘show you targeted advertising’.

Who with?

Look Fantastic share your data with:

  • Google
  • Snapchat
  • Criteo
  • Bing
  • Facebook
  • BidSwitch
  • TVSquared
  • Duomai
  • Advertising.com

If you’d like to see the full list of the third parties Look Fantastic share your data with, you can find it in their cookie policy.

Have they made any big data-related headlines?

No.

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Birchbox

Birchbox is an online monthly subscription company that sends out samples of makeup, skin care, perfume and other beauty products. It has over 4 million subscribers and has offices in the UK, US, France and Spain.

What data do they collect on you?

Some examples of the data Birchbox collects on you include:

  • Name, date of birth and gender
  • Address, contact details and payment details
  • Interests, preferences, beauty profile information and order history
  • IP address, browser type and version, time zone setting and the device you use to access the site
  • How you use the site, products and services

Do they share your data with third parties for advertising purposes?

Yes. Although their privacy policy is very vague, so we’ve had to read between the lines.

Birchbox says they can ‘sell, transfer, or merge’ parts of their ‘business’ or ‘assets’ with ‘third parties’.

Later, Birchbox says:

‘We will get your express opt-in consent before we share your personal data with any company outside the Birchbox group of companies for marketing purposes’.

As far as we can gather, your ‘consent’ is given when you agree to the terms and conditions of service.

Who with?

Again, their cookie policy is vague and all Birchbox say is that they share your data with ‘third parties’.

Have they made any big data-related headlines?

No.

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Glossybox

Glossybox provides luxury beauty samples every month and operates in 10 different countries including the UK, US and Canada. In 2017, Glossybox was purchased by The Hut Group for an undisclosed amount, and The Hut Group was valued at £2.5 billion that year.

What data do they collect on you?

Below are some examples of the data Glossybox collects on you:

  • (If you decide to provide it) Body type, skin type, hair type, training regime, height and weight
  • Name, gender, contact details, payment details and address
  • Purchase history and browsing activity
  • Reviews, feedback and interaction with customer service
  • The device you use to access the site, how many pages you viewed and if you click on a link in their email

Do they share your data with third parties for advertising purposes?

Yes.

Glossybox are very vague about the fact they share your data to advertisers in their privacy policy. But, in their cookie policy they explain that third party cookies from companies like Snapchat, Bing and Facebook allow them ‘to provide relevant advertising to users’.

Who with?

Their cookie policy says Glossybox share your data with:

  • Google
  • Snapchat
  • Criteo
  • Facebook
  • Bing
  • BidSwitch
  • TVSquared
  • Duomai
  • advertising.com
  • Adscale

For a longer list of the third parties Glossybox shares your data with, see their cookie policy.

Have they made any big data-related headlines?

No.

Final thoughts 💡

Going through all of these privacy policies with just 3 simple questions in mind (what data do these companies collect? Do they share it with third parties for advertising purposes? And if so, who with?) has really highlighted how some companies like to word their privacy policies in vague or misleading ways.

For example, repeatedly saying they ‘never’ sell or share any of your data...unless you consent to it, which almost everyone does when they accept the terms and conditions before using the service.

Anyway, we hope this makes how these beauty companies handle your data clearer! As always, if you have any questions, concerns or ideas, get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.

By Klara Lee