Customer Loyalty Programs

……fabulous or an invasion of privacy?

They are a double edged sword.

Companies are convincing their clients to sign up for all sorts of Customer Loyalty Programs ostensibly to reach certain levels and receive gifts or free travel. In exchange, companies are collecting extensive experience on their clients buying habits, from restaurants, travel, pharmacy, clothes and groceries, which they are then mining for trends. If a client consistently purchases expensive clothes, then their information is sold to third parties for cash and the client is solicited by other companies for credit cards, cars and other products. Although in the last few years it has been mandatory to request permission to share the information, it is not always the case. This crosses and interesting line between misuse of information and invasion of privacy, in many cases, both personal and corporate.

In days of old, there was an interpersonal relationship between merchant and client, where the client would ask the merchant to please advise them of certain items coming into the shop, or sales.

Some people I know put every possible expenditure they can on their corporate credit card in order to collect travel points, and then use the points to travel internationally for free,  which can be an interesting compensation for someone who travels extensively on company business. Other people use their credit cards for everything from groceries to gas, and collect points.

In the electronic age, there is no such thing as privacy, the more information is collected, the more is known about you. A lot of people use the argument, ‘I have nothing to hide’, however, that is not really the case. Do you really want someone, unknown to you, to be able to do a lifestyle analysis on you and track your purchases, travels and buying habits?  From personal hygiene products to drugs?

Do you really think it is a good idea for strangers to be able to mine your life and find out what doctors you visit, what stores you frequent, what restaurants you eat in, and how much you spend on groceries versus restaurants every week?

One frightening bit of information which is unknown to most people, is that the credit bureau also hosts all the insurance data, so, it is not a large stretch of the imagination, to envisage the day when one required to fill in an application form for a loan, and be obliged to allow the insurance information to be provided as well. Think about it. The next step after that is job applications where this information must be provided. Then what?

Big Brother is Watching.

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