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Guarding Personal Information from Corporate InterestsIs it me or is everybody trying to pry your personal information from you these days? Don’t get me wrong, I’m obviously not overly paranoid about it. I mean, I do write a personal blog for all the world to see. If you want to know much about me, all you have to do is pull up our website and there it is. However, I’m mildly distrubed by the fact that I can’t go into a store and buy something annonymously anymore. I find it to be a bit unsettling.

It all started out a few years ago when stores started issuing “valued customer” cards. Essentially, you’d use these cards to earn points for free stuff. Then you had grocery stores requiring you to use their card in order to take advantage of their sales for the week. These stores then track your purchases and are able to market to you accordingly.

 

Disney and Your Personal Information

These days, Disney has taken this tactic to a whole new level using computer cookies. Whenever you visit one of their websites, they will ask you a bunch of questions about your different preferences. By doing this, they are able to provide the customer with offers (advertisements) based upon their personal information (like family size and age) and preferences. This is wonderful marketing, and they would tell you that it is great for the customer to be able to receive tailored ads as well. I think it is a little bit creepy for a company the size of Disney to know that much about me. Afterall, don’t giant companies have enough power already?

 

Giving Up our Privacy to Go Christmas Shopping

Here is another example. The other day we went Christmas shopping at our local mall. Our 13 year-old niece asked for a gift card to a trendy clothing store. I don’t want to give this store any free advertising, so let’s just call it “The Snap.”  Anyway, we proceeded to the checkout counter to buy the gift card.

As the cashier was ringing up the gift card, she immediately began to ask us questions regarding our niece’s personal information. On the card, they wanted to keep track of her name, address, telephone number, etc. Of course, we didn’t feel comfortable giving out the information of a 13 year-old girl. When Holly asked why they needed all of that, the cashier stated that it was a convienience. That way, if she lost the card, they could see if it was already spent and could replace it if necessary.

…Riiiiggghhht…I’m sure that is why they were collecting all of her information. They just wanted to protect her $20 gift card…and bombard her with advertising to boot. We declined to give out the information.

After leaving “The Snap,” we entered another clothing store to buy a gift card for our other niece. The clerk scanned the card…and immediately asked us for our phone number. Yeah, no thanks. We just want to buy the card, thank you. I shouldn’t have to give you my phone number just to make a purchase. This time, we weren’t met with much resistance and the transaction was completed. We then left the mall, disgusted that we had come there in the first place.

 

Trading Privacy for Convenience

Have we grown so lazy that we are willing to give up all of our personal information in order to make something as simple as shopping easier? I’m not sure that I want Disney – or any other company, for that matter – to keep my personal information in their database. They reallly don’t need to know how many children I have and what their ages are. I’ve been shopping for over 30 years. I think I can manage to find the products I’m looking for. If not, I’ll ask somebody.

As I’ve already stated, these companies collect this information and frame it as a convience for their customers. They claim that it will help their shopping experience. However, what they are really looking to do is to use it to make more money off of you. I’m not sure why we put up with this. I guess it is par for the course in an age where everybody airs all of their dirty laundry on Facebook and writes about their personal lives on their blog (Gulp!).

 

How Safe is Your Personal Information?

Yet, I am left wondering, how safe is all of this information?  We’ve already handed it all over to these companies. Now, it is basically theirs to do as they wish with it. Why have we decided to forgo privacy in the name of convenience? Personal privacy used to be something that was cherished. Now, it is almost forgotten.

In my opinion, too many people have access to my personal information already. That is one reason that I choose not to use most personal finance apps. While I know that they are great tools for people to help them get out of debt, I feel like there are enough companies that have my personal information already. I certainly don’t need more of them having my bank account numbers.

As far as I’m concerned, these stores can keep their advertisements to themselves. They really don’t need my personal information. I’d rather buy my foaming hand soap annonymously, thank you.