The Price of Loyalty

What would you give up to save a dollar on your next grocery purchase? Quite a lot if you shop at Ralphs, a California supermarket, according to the LA Times.

The state’s new data privacy laws are forcing companies that collect information to be more transparent about exactly what they collect. How about this on the signup form for Ralphs Rewards loyalty card programme …?

…the form proceeds to state that, as part of signing up for a rewards card, Ralphs “may collect” information such as “your level of education, type of employment, information about your health and information about insurance coverage you might carry.”

It says Ralphs may pry into “financial and payment information like your bank account, credit and debit card numbers, and your credit history.”

Wait, it gets even better.

Ralphs says it’s gathering “behavioral information” such as “your purchase and transaction histories” and “geolocation data,” which could mean the specific Ralphs aisles you browse or could mean the places you go when not shopping for groceries, thanks to the tracking capability of your smartphone.

Ralphs also reserves the right to go after “information about what you do online” and says it will make “inferences” about your interests “based on analysis of other information we have collected.”

Other information? This can include files from “consumer research firms” ­– read: professional data brokers ­– and “public databases,” such as property records and bankruptcy filings.

When asked about this massive data grab in exchange for a simple loyalty card, a company spokesman said, “I can understand why it raises eyebrows … We may need to change the wording on the form.”

So that’s all right then. Don’t do less spying, just change the wording so people don’t realise what you’re doing. Problem solved!

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