Way back in the mists of time, I did a uni subject on data mining. It was quite an eye opener. While I guess I'd always known there was no such thing as a free lunch, it was pretty confronting to realise just how much personal data corporations were collecting on consumers, and how easily they duped us into providing our data. I've always hated receiving junk mail – whether in the mail or electronically – and am a very private person, so am leery of providing my personal details for inclusion in databases. No, I don't have frequent buyer cards, or belong to cinema clubs, or collect any sort of 'points'. Apparently that makes me a tad unusual! Anyway, data privacy and so-called loyalty programs have been in the news quite a lot lately. For example:
– Target has worked out how to tell if customers are pregnant, so it can push baby products on parents-to-be. This caused a bit of outrage earlier this year
– The Sydney Morning Herald called data mining 'the hottest new job you've never heard of', and noted that privacy issues had yet to be solved
– Choice magazine analysed store loyalty programs, finding that consumers were providing detailed personal information, for very little reward
– The New York Times magazine found mined data being used to push different products toward different people, and to charge higher prices to those perceived to be less price-sensitive (e.g. owners of Apple products), and
– Australian blogger Mia Freedman had a bit of a rant about how every shop she goes to tries to sign her up for yet another loyalty card, and her wallet was overflowing (and patience wearing thin).
I'm with Mia. No, I do not want to join your loyalty program! I'd rather pay a few extra bucks and retain my privacy, integrity and choice. As always, just my two cents' worth. How about you?