Many people are worried about their data and in particular what the government is doing with it. What I don’t think is evident to many people is what private companies are doing with demographic data and how quickly some of it is sold and past around. Here are two examples that occurred in the last 4 days.
Friday night I was in the mood for something different than TV offered. We stopped by Tom Thumb to pick up a few things on the way back from dinner. I spotted a DVD of the old miniseries from 1982, “The Blue and the Gray” which was a very interesting look at life during the Civil War both for soldiers and citizens on both sides of the Mason Dixon Line. I highly recommend it and it was 7.99 so I grabbed it to add to my DVD library.
Monday morning I get an email from Amazon.com who has always amazed me with follow up marketing based on your choices and browsing with them in the past. This time though it was different what did they recommend for me this time…
Now I sure don’t remember looking up anything about the Civil War on Amazon ever, I don’t remember ever and I mean ever getting anything from them before about the Civil War and the timing seems suspicious at best. This doesn’t really bother me this much other than it shows the technology exists to classify us quickly by what we buy. This tracking of course was possible because I used my Tom Thumb discount card.
Again I am not mad at Amazon or Tom Thumb, hell I might buy The North and The South but one might want to consider using fake names and trash emails for discount cards at stores in the future since nothing seems to preclude that.
Now here is one that just happened about 15 minutes ago and this one is a bit more concerning just based on who sold my information. I just got the an email that had the subject “Keep Bear protected from Fleas, Ticks and Heartworm”
Part of the emails says, “Is Bear protected from heartworm, fleas and ticks? The Petango Store is here to help – we’ve got great deals on Frontline flea and tick treatment, and Heartgard heartworm prevention. Bear can stay safe with great savings”. This email was sent by PetHealth Inc. They sell everything from Pet Insurance to Pet Meds, etc.
So who the hell is Bear? Bear is actually Max our big happy and protective German Sheppard. The shelter called him Bear, we changed his name to Max. All our Vet Records say that, etc. We have never used the name Bear, ever. This one is not circumstantial but conclusive.
The only way anyone would ever know my email address and that we have a dog who’s name at one time was Bear is via the Fort Worth Humane Society. In fact there is no doubt at all this is the case because in the email is states, “As a Humane Society of North Texas adopter, you get 10% off your next order! Use coupon code: 360PA2010”
In all honestly if the Humane Society can help more dogs by selling an email list fine, we all get so much spam everyday what is an email or two more. Besides I am sure I checked a box or something about email updates when we filled out the paper work for Max, most likely the terms that I did not read allowed this type of information sharing.
Nothing is malicious in all of this but it sure shows how a government that wanted to could easily classify its citizens, my bet (foil hat on) is they are likely doing this already at least at a “trends level” (foil hat off).
There are a few lessons in this…
- Sometimes you may want to give fake or at least one off information
- There is no longer anything close to privacy in the modern world
- Not all the spam you get is really spam, most is purchased from people you gave permission to sell it to
- When you do anything someone knows even when it is something like buying bread
- This is one reason to keep cash around and a big reason our government doesn’t want to (only 3% of US dollars currently exist as coin and paper)
So what are your thoughts on this? Have you had similar experiences?