Tracked down into the Stores

Fidelity Cards

On Friday, I talked about the Freedom Not Fear event with an action day scheduled for yesterday. This initiative focuses on the retention problematic of the telecommunication data (Internet, mobile phones, …). But tracking does not only occur for digital data. Stores are another good example.

Yesterday, I went with my wife to a local distribution point belonging to a well-known chain of stores in Belgium. First, she went to the reception to exchange some coupons. The receptionist finished the transaction by asking her our post code and her birthday date. I tried to make my wife more aware of the issue and I asked to her: “Did you give your personal data?” She looked at me and, surprised, answered: “Yes, of course? Why would I lie?“.

We entered the store and bought some goods. Just before scanning the goods, she gave her fidelity card to the cashier. Once again, I said: “Do you know that you are disclosing personal information?“. The answer was immediate: “Yes, but I’ll receive more points and this will gave me some discount during our next visit!“. Thank your Mister Marketing!

By giving her fidelity card, she got indeed extra points which are available during the NEXT visit (to force the customer to come back!) but she also stored interesting records in the store data-warehouse: Matching the card and the list of goods, they will be able to build a complete customer profile of my wife: when she comes, how often, how regularly she buy specific goods, if we have children, pets etc…

The purpose of this tracking is to build the profile of customers and make more attractive commercial actions (read between the lines: to force them to buy more and non-critical goods). Think about this post the next time you will give your fidelity card!

Note that I’m not against all forms of logging. It can be useful to track cyber-criminals. But they are risks to have collected data used to generate statistics or to generate users profiles. The example of stores describe here is also applicable in a lot of other cases!

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