Guarding Your Personal Information from Corporate Interests


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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.



  1. says

    I agree that stores and companies have gone over the edge of “asking for too much.” They want every last bit of information they can gather. Zip code? Phone Number? Email Address? Have you signed up for our credit card? Do you want deals in the mail? Can I have your address?

    It never stops! I don’t see it stopping, either, as companies try to grab as much data as possible to gain an edge over their competitors.

  2. says

    I’ll have to tell my brother that he has an unhappy customer (he works for Disney).

    I don’t like thinking about how much information companies have on me. I have enough trouble sleeping already without adding that to the list.

  3. says

    Great post Greg! I could not agree more. It drives me nuts when I go to the store and they ask for all of my crap. I just politely say I am not giving it out while biting my tongue. The thing is, if you pay by credit card they can get a lot of that info anyway with just a little bit of work.

    Working in the advertising field, I know exactly why companies do it but I still think it sucks. Why should I have to be concerned about them bombarding my email with their junk…I get too much of it as it is.

  4. Justin@TheFrugalPath says

    I remember when radio shack was the only store that did this, anyone remember the whole “I have to give my phone number to buy batteries.” issue?
    Now it’s so common place that it’s almost bizarre not to be bombarded by 100 questions.

  5. says

    Nice post.
    I agree that in the sense that certain companies go overboard by asking for personal info. It drives me nuts when I’m asked for my postal code, or I have to fill out my phone # to return an item. Seriously?

  6. Brian says

    I find it amusing how much personal information people will voluntarily give to a company. The best example of this is FACEBOOK. They know more about you, than you do, yet people just freely throw that information about themselves out there… When you think about it, giving your zip code or phone number to a store doesn’t seem so bad in comparison.

  7. says

    Online coupon printing used to be pretty easy, now it seems more and more sites want you to register your personal information in order to be presented the printable coupon. My personal information is worth a little more than a dollar off three cans of soup.

    • says

      lol, I totally agree. Plus your time is more valuable than the ten minutes it will take to set up and account with a username and password that you may never remember anyway!

  8. says

    This is the business model and it is only going to get more pronounced in the future.. Companies everywhere are tracking all of your spending habits, and even your browsing habits. I know that target prints off targeted coupons based on past purchases, and amazon automatically signs you up for newsletters based on what you *browse* through on their site.

  9. says

    As a marketer, I know how valuable this information is to any company. We strive to collect it and can do amazing targeting with it. One the consumer side, I had people asking for my information. I provide an old phone number, an email address just created for spam, and I don’t give out my address (even though it is not hard to find). There are not many ways to live off the grid these days, but if a company needs a little information to provide me with a discount, then I will provide it to them.

    There are some companies that go to far and I have problems with those, especially ones that sell your information as soon as they get it.

  10. says

    It’s nuts- it’s ridiculous you are constantly being asked for your email (and ended up on some list) or postal code, or phone number..sigh..

  11. says

    Usually companies reward you for the information with advance notice of sales or special discounts. For some shoppers this may be enough. I am concerned about the safety of the information because in many cases, they have credit card numbers etc.

  12. says

    I get so annoyed by everyone always asking for my name, for my membership card, etc etc. When they ask for my phone number it really annoys me because I wonder if they are going to be selling it to some annoying telemarketing company I’ll have to deal with forever.

  13. says

    Another thing that concerns me is that we all have so many passwords to different sites (which undoubtedly are the same in many cases) If one site gets hacked or leaked then we are exposed majorly…

  14. says

    I get sick of saying “no” to the phone number snatchers at local retailers. I mean really, who calls people on the phone anymore, anyways! I guess they could “text” advertise, but still, it’s jacked. I don’t mind using legit budget apps, but I try to limit th number of companies that have full access.

    And Greg, I have to say, I could see you being well-prepared for the Zombie Apocalypse or Armageddon, lol! You don’t trust anyone, and probably have a gun rack in your car, huh? 😉

    • says

      That is a good point about the phone numbers. I don’t even answer my phone anymore. I just wait until the call goes through and text, “Did you need something?”

  15. says

    I remember when stores first stated this technique with zip codes, and then went on to emails. Now they are asking for everything under the sun. I agree it is annoying, especially when you start getting spammed in your email. (Unfortunately, I was too much of an imbecile in the beginning and gave out my email too many times)

    • says

      I also think it depends on how they ask. There is a big difference between:

      “What’s your email?” and
      “Would you like to give out your email?” I don’t like it when they act like I owe it to them.

  16. says

    But if you buy the foamy hand soap anonymously, how can they know which one you bought the next time you go in the store and can’t remember?

    Come to the dark side, Greg. It’s not so bad in corporate marketing land….

  17. says

    Giving out a phone number is probably small potatoes compared to the elaborate databases and profiling our credit card companies have built on us based off of all of our purchases through the years. This is why I never will agree with a completely cashless society. Or what about our Google accounts, Googs has had years to compile our searches and analyze/profile accordingly. Gulp.

    • says

      Yeah, I use credit cards only and my credit card companies could literally track everywhere I’ve been and what I’ve bought. It’s a scary thought!

  18. says

    I moved, and in the process switched to a PO Box. I tell people that I don’t give out my address or phone number.

    It is VERY easy to find info on people, especially if the entity that wants the info is a company that can pay for things like data aggregation services. There are so many potential customers out there that the interest is more in parsing datapoints than anything, but. . .yeah, we don’t have much of a private life anymore. And in cases of people who post TMI on sites like Facebook, they either don’t care or the don’t make the connection.

    Though if I posted my dirty laundry on my blog, it would be boring. I’d have to make stuff up to get people to want to read about my dirty laundry!

    • says

      It is super easy to find info on people. And you’re right about Facebook. What’s up with people constantly “checking in” everywhere they are going?

  19. says

    This has really taken off the last few years. I can’t keep track of how often I have been asked questions like this. What bothers me the most is that even when I don’t give out that information, they sometimes still find a way to get it. It’s like the privacy laws don’t exist.

  20. says

    I think some people make too big a deal of some privacy issues. If you own property, your address is list in the public tax roll. If you have a business, you list your phone number and email address on your marketing materials. And then you have phone directories which publish the same info and have been around for decades. Simply contacting someone isn’t invading their privacy. Asking questions to make their shopping experiences more beneficial isn’t the end of the world either in my view.

    Maybe younger folks don’t remember, but there was a time when the Do Not Call registry and Opt-Out Prescreen didn’t exist and marketers would send out tons of solicitations daily. And when they started asking for info at the store checkout lines, or solicitors call the office I simply say “no, when I want something I’ll look for it–I don’t need anyone suggesting it to me”. Online-wise, if you are “friends” with people on Facebook that you don’t trust and feel insecure posting certain things, then you have other issues to deal with. I only accept friends who I actually know, and for business I have separate pages so anyone I kinda-sorta know online can connect with me there if needed.

    Maybe it’s just the old part of me coming out, who knows?

    • says

      I don’t know. Maybe it depends on the person. We were pretty disturbed when the store started asking mailing information for a 13 year old girl. I am definitely not okay with that. But, to each their own.

  21. says

    I’m not a huge fan of giving up any personal info either. It’s way to easy for someone to steal you’re identity and do things like open up a new credit card with. On top of that consider the possibility of a security breach. A lot of companies from Linked In to eHarmony have been hit. For I would do exactly what you did, Opt Out.

    • says

      I am terrified of some big company getting hacked and someone stealing my identity. Speaking of that, I need to do my annual credit report before the end of the year!

  22. says

    I think there was a comment I saw about Facebook. They know how to market. Many times I decline giving out my personal information. There’s no need for them to have to much of my information. And the salesperson is just repeating what they are told.

  23. Matthew Allen says

    If my wits are working that day, I like to have a little fun with it and give out fake information. More often than not, I am caught off guard though. Plus, paying with a debit card with my name on it makes that a little challenging.

    I once was denied a pay at the pump transaction because I entered in a fake zip code. Turns out, that was a verification step to make sure I was the owner of the card.

      • says

        haha! I had never thought that they would ask for a zip as verification for your card. That is probably an exception though. They usually just ask to be nosy and to put you on their mailing list.

  24. says

    I’ve started to notice that alot at the grocery stores and other shops wanting my name, postal code etc. You are right what happened to give my stuff, here’s your money and mind your own business, gone! Technology, the internet etc has taken over the world. Sometimes I think back to the good old days when life was simple but then would we really give up all these conveniences of communication etc? We bought a gc at the mall yesterday as well but she never asked me for info and if she did I’d tell her to get bent… but in a nice way :-)

  25. says

    Oh man I’m with you guys 100%, I don’t want to even think about who knows what about me, it’s scary! I recently started receiving a catalog to a store I have never, in my life, shopped in-which scares the bejesus out of me because it means another store has sold my information.

  26. says

    You’re right, the reason we do is it’s convenient. But I often wonder about that sort of thing because I’m sure if someone really wanted to, they could access my information. Heck I debate about that with just saying stuff on facebook. I wonder how it might come back and haunt me at some point. I’ve made a point of scaling back a bit.

    • says

      Me too! Especially about facebook. We have a serious rule around here regarding drinking and facebooking. When the alcohol comes out, the computer goes OFF! I am so worried about saying something stupid…or worse yet…something like this:

      afdhsahweewkj ksweeeeeeeeeeeee

  27. says

    This is so true. I have a bit more sinister story along those lines: My sister was pregnant and bought some maternity clothing at a local chain store. She gave out her information when they requested it, thinking nothing of it. A few months later, when she was closer to her due date, she got an unsolicited package in the mail from a milk formula company. The package contained free samples of the product, coupons, and most importantly: deceptive information about the benefits of formula versus breast feeding. I took a look at the information myself and there were definitely lies in it. She couldn’t figure out how this company got a hold of her information until I pointed out that the maternity store had likely sold her mailing address to this formula company.

  28. Lena @ WhatMommyDoes says

    I couldn’t agree more. My personal pet peeve is when a cashier gets huffy when I refuse to give my email address! I’m sorry, but I already get too many emails as it is!

    Another troubling trend…have you seen all the permissions companies request through Facebook apps these days? It’s truly amazing.

  29. says

    I whole heartedly agree with you. Some companies even go one step further and lift information off of you without your knowledge or consent. One such company (rhymes with Shmome Shmepo) keeps your credit card information on file the moment you pay for a purchase with your card. There’s no waiver, no permissions, no verbalizing it to a cashier, nothing. You swipe it at the till and they save it. I was livid when I found that out, because they already had my information before I found out.

  30. says

    I remember there used to be this clothing store I went to as a teenager and they’d always require some personal info to buy something. At the time I didn’t question it but now I wonder if they still have that info. Creepy!

  31. says

    To protect a gift card? Hmmmm…..good call on your part.

    I’ve thought the same thing; in the past five years, I’ve had to get a shopper’s card at every freaking store if I want to get their sales. Which means I give them my name. Address. Phone number. Email. Sometimes more. I’m sick of it.

  32. John Cullos says

    Big brother is watching us!! We are all being profiled!! All of the personal info that businesses collect is probably stored in some master database which can be viewed by our government or any other rich corporation. All of that unhealthy food that you purchased through credit cards or store loyalty cards can be traced back to you and health insurance companies can use that as excuse to raise your insurance rates or to even refuse coverage if they deem you to be a risk. I have no credit cards and i am not on Facebook. If i can’t afford it, i won’t buy it. Cash omly for me.

  33. Elizabeth @ Broke Professionals says

    This is especially horrible, since I work in market research on the side, but at the times when I DO give personal information… it’s totally fictional. THere’s no reason why all these stores/sites/companies need to know anything – let alone *everything* – about me!

  34. JJ says

    I get really upset when the sales associate “smugly” acts like it’s “required” for you to provide that. They “just ask like it’s a normal thing to do and you are required to provide it.” I always ask why they need it. When they give me their bogus answer, I say “WRONG ANSWER! Now tell me the real reason!” For which I get a blank look, and I smugly “inform” them of the “Real” reason, and a lecture that I am under no legal obligation to provide it and they should be conscious of that and stop acting like it’s “required.”

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