Tuesday, January 1, 2008

New Year Paranoia Thoughts

As we were at Safeway buying champagne and the sparking apple cider for the party last nite it really dawned on me the amount of personal data we give to stores in exchange for a couple dollars off at the register.

When you think about it, would you regularly post on the net when you buy condoms or butt cream from the drug store, or EVERYTHING you bought from the grocery store. While I don't consider myself strange or to have weird eating habits, I don't know that I'd be comfortable letting everyone know what I was buying -- even though evidently I am because i take my couple dollar discount.

While most of the info is just for marketing or statistics, some you have to wonder what its for. For example, Safeway (a grocery store) you enter in your phone number and you get the "Safeway member price" on alot of things that are on sale that week, thats cool, and i usually save 3 or 4 dollars per visit. But what does safeway do with that data? i don't get coupons or things like that in the mail or email (you only give them name and phone number but alot of stores ask for email now too) but where is all that information going and who is using it?

So, two thoughts I took away from it were:

1. Looking back at my maltego post (or just using google) look at the amount of information you can find about someone if you just know there name, email and phone number...kinda scary

2. Can that information be used to incriminate you? Say I was a suspect in a murder case and I had bought (and swiped my member rewards card) at the local hardware store when I bought lime, shovel, trash bags, and rope --hope I didn't pay with my debit mastercard either.

So, I guess my question is, in this day and age of really working hard to protect the privacy of our online identity with TOR, anonymous email accounts, limiting what personal information we do give out, and your favorite flavor or PGP do we need to work harder to protect our physical (real/human) identities, especially when that information is so easily and pretty much instantaneously transfered into the online realm?

I think I'll continue using the in-laws information at Safeway...just in case.

Happy New Year!



E. Hulse said...

Actually if you want to know what is done with the data read a book called "No place to hide" Its about the information disclosures and cameras on every corner. Most of the data you give to grocery stores goes into a database which is shipped off to a business in kansas. This business charges companies to analyze the data. Government agencies love it because the law states that the government can not collect data on its citizens, but private industry can. Well, Guess who's buying information! It's an interesting business concept. I charge you to give me data, I then put that data in with other business data, cross reference it all with your information, develop an analysis of it that shows your shopping habits, then turn around and sell it to anyone willing to buy it, which is mostly targeted marketers.

CG said...

well its good to know that my paranoia IS founded...well sort of.

Anonymous said...

haha... i use my ex-roommates card. nice though. i guess i didn't think of it because i'm using my ex-roommates card.