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The Good and Bad of Data Collection

CowboyNeal posted more than 10 years ago | from the look-who's-watching dept.

Privacy 146

Nephilium writes "Reason magazine has dedicated their latest issue to a discussion of privacy and data collection. They sent subscribers a customized cover of the magazine [as previously covered on Slashdot]. Some good points as to the benefits and drawbacks of who is sharing your information." The sample targeted advertisements are for non-profit organizations, but it may not be long until someone figures out how much companies will pay to utilize this sort of targeting.

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fp (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9271765)

niggaaaa

Sounds like GMail. (2, Interesting)

Bs15 (762456) | more than 10 years ago | (#9271768)

Isn't google doing the same thing with their GMail service?

Re:Sounds like GMail. (1)

Bs15 (762456) | more than 10 years ago | (#9271886)

As in doing data collection in users email...

CUSTOM SPAM (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9271791)

thats it, thats all I had to say, CUSTOM SPAM.....

Re:CUSTOM SPAM (3, Interesting)

JohnnyComeLately (725958) | more than 10 years ago | (#9271826)

Dont you mean "Custom High Volume Mail Distribution". Like a custom trashhauler, but in reverse.

Yeah, I know...boo hisss....but I couldn't help myself.

Re:CUSTOM SPAM (1)

hunterx11 (778171) | more than 10 years ago | (#9271950)

I work for a bulk mailer, and have actually gotten a letter that I printed. It was kind of weird since it did go straight into my trash can.

Before everyone finds photos of my house and comes to beat me up, at least let me say that we only send to people already on mailing lists 99% of the time. The only real junk mail I've sent was ironically from a guy in a pyramid scheme trying to sell people...mailing lists! He called to complain after not one person responded to his mail. I guess he was at the bottom of the pyramid :)

My cover! (1)

graveyardduckx (735761) | more than 10 years ago | (#9271792)

My cover had the youngest, hottest teens on the net and pills that would increase my manly unit! Who wouldn't want this showing up in their mail!?! My girlfriend was overjoyed!

Good (5, Interesting)

ibpooks (127372) | more than 10 years ago | (#9271800)

The sample targeted advertisements are for non-profit organizations, but it may not be long until someone figures out how much companies will pay to utilize this sort of targeting.

I'd much rather have ads sent to me about things that I might actually want or be interested in. For example, sending feminine hygine ads to me is a waste of their time and mine.

How'bout NO ADS (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9271816)

Imagine that..... wanting to buy something, going to the store, and picking the damned thing out YOURSELF, instead of people pushing stuff at you 24/7 ..... now there's a concept..

Re:How'bout NO ADS (4, Insightful)

Carnildo (712617) | more than 10 years ago | (#9272086)

Maybe if the ads coming at me are targeted, I'll see fewer of them. The current "shotgun" approach certainly does nothing to keep the total number of ads down.

(on a side note, if advertisers got serious about targeted ads, people like you, who don't respond well to ads wouldn't get any)

Re:How'bout NO ADS (3, Insightful)

janbjurstrom (652025) | more than 10 years ago | (#9272460)

In a best-case scenario, that might happen.

But isn't the problem that if/when targeted advertising - if 'Real Ultimate Precision Advertising' (RUPA) is possible - it would simply become the new "entry-level"? (I.e. nolonger a competitive advantage; not an edge but a requirement.)

It immediately becomes the new status quo (as the "shotgun approach" is today), and every company looking to stand out - and they all want/have to - must now do RUPA plus X, and Y, and Z, and ...

And marketing people know, as well as we do in all honesty, that everybody responds to advertising - in one form or another. Perhaps today not so much to regular 'ads' (as in TV commercials, or ads in a magazine), but if not that, then to product placements, or celebrity spokespersons, or sponsorships, or viral marketing, or astroturfing-word-of-mouth campaigns, or ...

So my fear is, that we won't se less ads/marketing ploys, but more - only they will be targeted to our specific 'profiles'... Advertisers certainly have the will/need and budgets for it to happen.

Re:How'bout NO ADS (3, Insightful)

lonesome phreak (142354) | more than 10 years ago | (#9273237)

And marketing people know, as well as we do in all honesty, that everybody responds to advertising - in one form or another.

Yep, it's called "Brand building". Even if they will never buy your product, they at least now may find it familiar when they hear about it again. Or, in more evil terms, "mindshare".

Re:How'bout NO ADS (3, Insightful)

Rorschach1 (174480) | more than 10 years ago | (#9272100)

And how much are you going to pay for a magazine or newspaper if it's not supported by advertisers?

And looking at my latest Circuit Cellar, I see a full-page add for a PSoC device that looks pretty cool, and that I wouldn't have known about otherwise. And 'going to the store' to browse for this sort of thing is pretty much out of the question.

Now, if I could replace every feminine hygene ad I see with one for an embedded device C compiler, PC-based oscilloscope, or something else that actually interests me, that'd be great.

Re:How'bout NO ADS (4, Informative)

NoMoreNicksLeft (516230) | more than 10 years ago | (#9272207)

Lamer. Real geeks read Nuts & Volts. ;-)

I also must admit I've never once disliked the ads in those magazines, I could even truthfully say I buy them as much for the ads as anything else. But the truth is, no one gets rich in marketing letting people know about products they would already want. So this stuff about "if they only had more data, they'd target us" is bullshit. They'll still be trying to sell you a subscription to GQ, the latest fashion deoderant, and GM sports car.

Re:How'bout NO ADS (1)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 10 years ago | (#9272632)

And how much are you going to pay for a magazine or newspaper if it's not supported by advertisers?
There's only one thing I like better than ice fishing [csbruce.com] ..
..and that's sitting at home with my computer and a Transactor Magazine.

Now 95% Ad Free! [csbruce.com]

Re:How'bout NO ADS (0, Redundant)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 10 years ago | (#9272483)

Imagine that..... wanting to buy something, going to the store, and picking the damned thing out YOURSELF, instead of people pushing stuff at you 24/7 ..... now there's a concept..
...which kinda makes it harder to hear about new cool stuff. Particularly in tech areas, there's new "better" stuff showing up all the time. If you never get any ads, how're you going to find out about it? And if you never find out about it, how're you going to know if it'd be nice to have or not?

Tim

Re:Good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9271885)

I know, I get two penis enlargement spams a day!

Re:Good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9271916)

For example, sending feminine hygine ads to me is a waste of their time and mine.

Your single, right? :-)

YOU ARE = YOU'RE (1)

Fecal Troll Matter (445929) | more than 10 years ago | (#9272124)

Th-th-th-th-th-that's all folks.

Re:Good (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9271959)

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Re:Good (0)

KingAdrock (115014) | more than 10 years ago | (#9271981)

That explains that smell.

Soul on Ice (2, Funny)

Saeed al-Sahaf (665390) | more than 10 years ago | (#9272054)

I for one am quite happy to receive penis enlargement emails. Currently, I am simply HUGE, but I hope to become GARGANTUAN. In fact, I've been looking into a Soul on Ice codpiece (Eldridge Cleaver's fashion line, "a Cleaver sleeve," he called it.) Speaking of data collection, there's an article in the NYT says that a survey of federal agencies has found more than 120 programs that collect and analyze large amounts of personal data on individuals to predict their behavior (not including classified projects.)

Re:Soul on Ice (2, Funny)

nwbvt (768631) | more than 10 years ago | (#9273032)

See if I got truely personalized ads, I wouldn't get anything about penis enlargement.

And if any of you moderators even think about moding that "Funny"...

Just say NO (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9272141)

Sorry guys, but I really dont need people telling me to buy things, targeted or not.

I'll buy what I want thank you very much....

Targeted Content (5, Interesting)

ePhil_One (634771) | more than 10 years ago | (#9271804)

I'm more concerned about when publications will start publishing customized content, So that Rush Limbaugh thinks MagA is a conservative read, and Ralph Nader thinks its a left wing read.

Double your readership ;)

Re:Targeted Content (5, Interesting)

PsychoFurryEwok (467266) | more than 10 years ago | (#9271838)

That's actually a really interesting concept. With us being able to use computers to print out something different on each page, they could just set it up to run through their list of subscribers...use feedback to customize the magazine for them. Brings up another issue though...now you're forcing everyone to see something as only one sided. :)

Re:Targeted Content (4, Insightful)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 10 years ago | (#9271850)

I think at the end of the day Rush and Ralph would get together and swap copies if that ever started happening.

If you're in the business of being a political pundit, you want to read everything you can so you can talk about it. You need to see the opinions you disagree with too so you can start thinking of the ways to call those people wrong.

It'd be interesting to see... (2, Funny)

Arivia (783328) | more than 10 years ago | (#9271879)

Al Franken's next book after that started...
"Lying Liars and the Lies they targeted at Me", or something like that.

Re:Targeted Content (4, Insightful)

eln (21727) | more than 10 years ago | (#9271905)

Well, maybe if you're in the business of being a fair political pundit. The vast majority (certainly the loudest) pundits these days make their living by selling their own point of view, and loudly denouncing the other side without ever understanding or even knowing about their arguments. It's a lot easier to claim the other side is always wrong because theyre a bunch of "stinking liberals" or "fat cat conservatives" rather than actually trying to come up with arguments against what the other side is actually saying.

Political discourse these days isn't about debate, it's about volume, both in terms of quantity and decibel level.

Re:Targeted Content (1)

skyhawker (234308) | more than 10 years ago | (#9272095)

The vast majority (certainly the loudest) pundits these days make their living by selling their own point of view, and loudly denouncing the other side without ever understanding or even knowing about their arguments.
I think you have been listening to the wrong pundits.

Re:Targeted Content (5, Interesting)

deputydink (173771) | more than 10 years ago | (#9272026)

Speaking of magazines, about 10 years ago i used to work for a magazine wholesaler. Investments decided to sell the circulation information, and I was put in charge of the data-mining.


Apparently, if you know what kind of magazines are being sold in an area, you can assemble an accurate picture of the area's demographic, and use it to gauge market opportunites and stock management. For instance, high volumes of mens magazines begin sold in an area suggests it may be a good idea to open a Sporting goods store, conversely, a Department Store could infer that a lot of bridal and family magazines mean its time to stock baby strollers and family basics. The list went on and on, and even included municipal politians.


Due to constaints imposed by Canadian Privacy laws (i think), were not able to actually sell the quantity of any particular title, instead, we had to aggregate the titles into "subject categories" like Young Mens, Young Womens, Sport, Hobby, etc etc.


The markting agency that bought the information spent waaaaaaay more than i ever could have expected that information to be worth, and my technical liason was very bright, and had a very large (relatively) IT/Engineering group, so i figure they must have had a pretty slick set up. And, i just checked, they are still in business.


Interesting use of targeted content, i hadn't though of that project in years till reading this thread.

Re:Targeted Content (2, Insightful)

feepness (543479) | more than 10 years ago | (#9272088)

This already happens to a large extent. People can self-select their own outlet from among the multide of news sources, and therefore do not EVER get the full story... just the one they like.

Thus the further polarization of American politics.

that's why I like uncensored... (1)

zogger (617870) | more than 10 years ago | (#9272208)

...forums so much. You get every POV imaginable, and if it's a good forum, links-a-plenty to go check out. Keeps you from becoming stilted and narrow minded. It's MUCH better to at least be talking *with* someone, even arguing, then to be in a "me-too" only place where all you do is talk *about* "the other guys". Politics in particular, with news being a sub class of that obviously.

Re:Targeted Content (1)

DrAegoon (738446) | more than 10 years ago | (#9272109)

Sinister applications aside, targeting a magazine for a specific reader could be pretty good idea. How many magazines do you get that you actually read cover to cover? Personally, I would appreciate a magazine that could leave out the sections I never read and give me the content I'm interested in.

Picture a news magazine that could focus on current events in a reader's area along with the national news or leave out the style section for someone who couldn't care less.

Re:Targeted Content (2, Interesting)

blingbing (781894) | more than 10 years ago | (#9272119)

Or MagA can stay with Rush, but spin off a MagB for Ralph Nader. Trageted content is nothing new, it's already done in Cable and radio. Thank Fox News and CNN, Rush Limbaugh and Al Franken. They have their targeted audience, and they profit plenty if they can keep their audience, there is no need to be "fair and balanced".

Even within the same TV channel, targeted programming is a well-established practice. NBC has "Friends" for the coveted 18-35 age group, "Frasier" for 35 and above, "Queer eyes" for gays.

because of internet and cable, no single player can dominate the news. Target content is already happening, and it will only grow bigger.

Re:Targeted Content (1)

logicnazi (169418) | more than 10 years ago | (#9272366)

This is very unlikely because it simply isn't profitable.

In order to produce a magazine that caters either to left or right wingers depending on the viewer you have to do all the work to create two differnt magazines (which I am using to include web publications). Now why not just produce two magazines? People like being able to tell their friend to go look at a certain article, if content changes for the viewer they can't do this anymore making this sort of operation strictly less profitable than two seperate magazines.

Re:Targeted Content (2, Interesting)

toganet (176363) | more than 10 years ago | (#9272805)

Yes, except in the case where you already publish noth magazines (like my employer). Then it is a matter of developing some third magazine 'Brand', and marketing it as a targeted "best of our content" publiscation.

Re:Targeted Content (1)

irokitt (663593) | more than 10 years ago | (#9272426)

So if I got the right-sided (Republican) issue of this supposed political rag, would the advertisements be for left-sided (Democratic) political candidates? After all, I've supposedly already resigned myself to the right-sided candidates. And vice versa. It would be really strange if that were the case (kinda funny to think of Limnbaugh reading a magazine full of Kerry ads :-)

Whatever side of a particular issue I tend to be on, I like to see the other side. Because sometimes I want to refute the other side's arguments, and sometimes their arguments are good enough for me to defect. One of the reasons I like the Internet-it's harder to have information spoon fed to me, because I can switch between a variety of different websites and get different opinions on the same stories. Makes it harder for anyone to push a bias.

Regaining Privacy in the US (5, Interesting)

pholower (739868) | more than 10 years ago | (#9271810)

I agree, there is almost no privacy in the US for this sort of thing. But if you have already given your information to be hoarded in databases, and cross linked with other databases, then there is little one can do to regain their privacy.

Wired Magazine a year or so ago, I remember, had a page on how to regain privacy. Some of those tips included:
- Gaining access to a fake SSN
- Not using a Cell phone
- Never using a credit card
- Do not have a mortgage

Something most Americans are incapable of doing without moving to the woods and living off the land.

Re:Regaining Privacy in the US (1)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 10 years ago | (#9271890)

Check out the Privacy Song [ampcast.com] by Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie.

Re:Regaining Privacy in the US (1)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 10 years ago | (#9271923)

When it comes down to it, credit's a tool that's most certainly worth using. If you have a good-looking credit record built up at this point, there are lenders willing to let you hold on to their money for close to a year right now with near-zero interest.

True, it's a tool that lets the rich gets richer. However, if you're not so poor that you've spent money you can't repay in the past, you're considered rich enough to get to keep using that tool.

Re:Regaining Privacy in the US (2, Insightful)

logicnazi (169418) | more than 10 years ago | (#9272395)

What wrong with the rich getting richer? I'm most certainly not one of the rich (poor grad student) but I'm in favor of everyone getting a higher standard of living including the rich.

It is only a problem if the rich get richer at the expense of the poor. In the case of credit we are looking at a mechanism that lets the rich get richer while bettering all of society (financing lets people start stores and industry which improves everyone's lot)

Anonymous cell phones are very easy. (1)

Blaede (266638) | more than 10 years ago | (#9272052)

And I'm not talking about those with prepaid minutes. There are some companies that offer flat rate, unlimited local calling, just like a land line, except wireless, and with no contracts. One such company is Cricket, in Memphis. $32 a month gets you the service after buying the phone at any Cricket store, or even Best Buy. Yeah, the activation CSR asks for a SSN, but it's very easy to give them a fake one (which is what I did), as well as giving them other fake info. You can pay in cash the month's service at any Cricket store, or even these Cash Advance places that are in cahoots with them.

Cool! (1)

PsychoFurryEwok (467266) | more than 10 years ago | (#9271815)

I've never seen any other magazine that's done this and must say it looks pretty awesome. Ummm...how did they get the satellite photo though? I thought the satellite photos were restricted to government only or corporations that owned their own satellites like television and phone companies...any information on how they did it? I want to be able to take pictures of my house. :)

Re:Cool! (4, Informative)

ibpooks (127372) | more than 10 years ago | (#9271827)

TerraServer! [terraserver.com]

Re:Cool! (2, Funny)

PsychoFurryEwok (467266) | more than 10 years ago | (#9271865)

Wow. My privacy has officially been annihilated.

Re:Cool! (2, Informative)

spandrel (783536) | more than 10 years ago | (#9272843)

Actually, we used the terraserver images originally, but in the course of pre-publicity AirPhoto USA [airphotousa.com] contacted us and offered to let us use their aerial photos (where available) in conjunction with the public domain USGS files.

In terms of geocoding, we didn't try to go in and find a home address. That's why people with subscriptions pointing to PO boxes got a photo of the post office or city center. Even when there was an home address, sometimes the geocoding (pulling lat/long info based on street address) was a bit off due to variations in the way that addresses are determined/recorded.

In any case, if people have technical questions, feel free to post them and I'll do my best to answer (I led the implementation of this project).

Re:Cool! (1)

Arivia (783328) | more than 10 years ago | (#9271829)

As stated on the page, it's not a satellite-it's just good old aerial flyover.

Re:Cool! (1)

PsychoFurryEwok (467266) | more than 10 years ago | (#9271888)

That sounds like it would be extremely expensive if not to do the flyover themselves but to even purchase a shot for each of their subscribers homes.

Re:Cool! (1)

Carnildo (712617) | more than 10 years ago | (#9272120)

There are multiple arial flyover photographs available for every square foot of the United States. Guess what they use to make maps?

Re:Cool! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9272844)

Guess what they use to make maps?

I know! I know! Paper and ink. Additionally, there's also some method of applying the latter onto the former in a semi-automatic, mass-production manner involved.

Re:Cool! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9271978)

You can do it too...

http://terraserver.microsoft.com

and who better to provide it than good ol' Microsoft?

Re:Cool! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9273014)

also try:
http://seamless.usgs.gov/

and some decent instructions on use:
http://cryptome.org/sdds-guide.htm

jc

Cold and unbiased... (5, Interesting)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 10 years ago | (#9271825)

One thing the whole FICO-based credit system has working in its favor is that it is very truely blind. The decision maker doesn't get to look at you physically at all, it's not even a person anymore. Simply put, if the prediction formula gives you enough points you're accepted, and if it doesn't you're declined. Race, age, gender, religion, sexuality... who cares.

Of course, the system isn't perfect, it's subject to GIGO just like any other computer system. However, compared to human decision making, it's a whole lot of a more fair process on the whole.

Re:Cold and unbiased... (1)

netfool (623800) | more than 10 years ago | (#9272238)

You may have a 800+ credit score (generally anything over 730 is considered excellent), but if you're applying for a mortgage, that loan application is still sent to the hands of a human underwriter. And by law, (as a morgagte broker anyways) we're required to fill out you Race, Ethnicicty & Sex. If you decide not to give that information, we're supposed to fill it in ourselves based on appearance, surname etc.

From my experience as a mortgage broker, I've never seen and type of racism or dicrimination. But that information is supplied for someone to do so.

Just my 2 cents

Target for File 86 (2, Interesting)

beatleadam (102396) | more than 10 years ago | (#9271856)

They sent subscribers a customized cover of the magazine...The sample targeted advertisements are for non-profit organizations...

What bothers me the most about this is not the notion of loss of privacy, it is loss of *Choice*. When I worked as the only IT Staff at a non-profit (coincedance noted) I wanted all the information I could get, in whatever format to try to make the best and (unfortunately) least-expensive solutions.

This is just the biggest "brand" or brand name, being shoved down our throats.

where can I get one? (1)

sTalking_Goat (670565) | more than 10 years ago | (#9271857)

A Sat photo of my house I mean. I've been looking for sat image poster for a while now but all the available pics are from the 1980's. Anyone know who has recent sat images for sale? thanks

Re:where can I get one? (3, Informative)

chamblah (774997) | more than 10 years ago | (#9271968)

Terra Server [microsoft.com] is the best place that I know of.

I haven't looked for a home address there in a few years though so I'm not sure how up-to-date they are with the photos on file.

Re:where can I get one? (1)

sTalking_Goat (670565) | more than 10 years ago | (#9272076)

cool they have stuff as recent as last year, but they want you to subscribe before you can even see a decent close-up shot

that sucks.

They've got some nice area 51 images though.

Re:where can I get one? (2, Informative)

sTalking_Goat (670565) | more than 10 years ago | (#9272194)

globexplorer.com seems to have better looking shots. Wow my roof needs work.

Re:where can I get one? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9273031)

... http://seamless.usgs.gov/ ... http://cryptome.org/sdds-guide.htm

mapper.acme.com (1)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 10 years ago | (#9273190)

The USGS photos on mapper.acme.com (same data as terraserver-usa.com) date from about 1996.
-russ

Too bad for them (4, Funny)

secondsun (195377) | more than 10 years ago | (#9271861)

While the magazine claimed to have my location it actually was a picture of my uncle's house half a mile down the road. Guess my privacy is safe for a while longer ;).

Re:Too bad for them (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9272691)

Sorry, that's our fault, at the satellite photo company. We were were given a photo of your boyfriend, and then told to get a shot of the house of, and I quote, "the bastard screwing this guy in the back yard." Naturally, we assumed they knew about the whole situation, so the next time your uncle and boyfriend were "scaring the squirrels" as we joked, we took the picture. If you can't see them, look under the trees to the right of the shot.

Re:Too bad for them (1)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 10 years ago | (#9273210)

Click on the russnelson.com url just north of here, and you'll see how close they got to my house.
-russ

Fie (4, Insightful)

Grrr (16449) | more than 10 years ago | (#9271863)


It's easy to complain about a subjective loss of privacy. It's more difficult to appreciate how information swapping accelerates economic activity. Like many other aspects of modern society, benefits are dispersed, amounting to a penny saved here or a dollar discounted there. But those sums add up quickly.

There's almost the tone, here, that privacy and info-swapping are at odds with each other. What a shame.

<grrr>

ashcroft's eyeball (4, Informative)

morcheeba (260908) | more than 10 years ago | (#9271880)

Reason's cover [reason.com] didn't quite get ashcroft's house correctly. It should be this pic [cryptome.org] (or big 1800x1500 version [cryptome.org] ). Not as scary when they know your work location and not your house.

(from this cryptome eyeball [cryptome.org] - it is a lot of data since it covers 4 places, please don't slashdot)

Re:ashcroft's eyeball (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9271940)

How ironic that Ashcroft lives so close to the Supreme Court, and yet spends his days shitting on the Constitutaion.

Re:ashcroft's eyeball (1)

chamblah (774997) | more than 10 years ago | (#9271952)

...didn't quite get ashcroft's house correctly

Perhaps it's because they had this under the Ashcroft caption

U.S. Justice Department in Washington, D.C.

Anonymous Credit Cards (5, Interesting)

Lord Grey (463613) | more than 10 years ago | (#9271901)

There are several aspects to the privacy issue relating to the purchase of products and services in America. As the article goes to great lengths to point out, information sharing is not necessarily a Bad Thing, particular if it leads to financial and time efficiencies.

Because information sharing is pervasive (and getting more so as time goes by) we, as consumers, are caught in a bind: If we demand more privacy, the cost will go up; if we don't demand that privacy, abuse of the system will cause all sorts of problems, too many to list here. Of course, this is a problem only for people who care.

Personally, I find myself caring about privacy in some cases and not in others. It's a trade off decision. What I want is the ability to protect my privacy when I do care, at the instant of the transaction with the merchant, even if I've dealt with that particular merchant in the past. In face-to-face transactions of low monetary value, I can use cash. But what about online transactions, or the purchase of more expensive items?

What I'd like to have is an anonymous credit card. One that's tied to a "numbered account" somewhere, managed by an institution that cares only about its numbered accounts. Money is transferred into an account, and the institution pays the credit card bills for that account. Period. Given our cryptographic skills now, someone should be able to provide blind transfers that do the job nicely.

Of course, this type of system could be abused. But it's a different kind of abuse, and my privacy is safe.

Re:Anonymous Credit Cards (1)

haluness (219661) | more than 10 years ago | (#9271967)

Thats an interesting strategy, but at one point and given enough pressure (governemental?) those institutions would probably give up the names behind the numbered accounts.

(Swiss bank accounts were also 'numbered' but I think the authorities now give up account holder details if required to do so)

Re:Anonymous Credit Cards (2, Informative)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 10 years ago | (#9271990)

There is such a system right now. They're called prepaid credit cards. They're marketed in several different ways. Some convenience stores sell them right next to the prepaid cell phone cards targetting them at the people who can't get real credit cards because they've ruined their own credit history already. They're also seen at Simon-owned malls around the nation as what they're selling instead of selling traditional mall gift certificates now. Parents are pitched such cards as a way to establish a hard-limit on their children's spending. The prepaid cards are backed by either the Visa or MasterCard networks to create near-universal acceptance by merchants who won't even care that they're not traditional credit cards.

The catch? The transaction fees on these things are horrendous. Anybody who has the credit history to qualify and the personal resolve to not charge things they can't pay off is better off getting a real credit card... those are free to have, free to use, and also contribute good notes to your credit history for your future credit requests.

If you want to avoid giving your name for tin foil hat purposes, at least you have the option to get a nameless credit card. However, you're going to pay extra for that privledge.

Re:Anonymous Credit Cards (1)

Lord Grey (463613) | more than 10 years ago | (#9272335)

There is such a system right now. They're called prepaid credit cards.
You're right, of course. The prepaid cards exist and provide the anonymous transaction at the end, when they're used to purchase the final product/service, but they don't provide what I'm looking for at the beginning, when you buy the card itself.

An anonymous purchase of a prepaid card means paying cash for it, face-to-face with a merchant. If I'm paying cash for the card, I might as well pay cash for the final product. Plus, unless I add to the prepaid card with more cash somehow, there's a definite low(er) limit on what I can buy with that card. A prepaid card does solve the problem of buying low-ticket items online, however.

Then there's the whole problem of actually going out and buying the thing. I would like a little more convenience than that. But to pay for the convenience of (for example) buying it online, I give up a lot of privacy in that transaction.

I guess I'm looking for something more seamless, and a lot more convenient.

Re:Anonymous Credit Cards (1)

jpetts (208163) | more than 10 years ago | (#9272317)

If we demand more privacy, the cost will go up

In fact it is very well established that "loyalty" cards atually cause prices to rise [nocards.org] rather than fall.

Re:Anonymous Credit Cards (1)

mc6809e (214243) | more than 10 years ago | (#9272495)

In fact it is very well established that "loyalty" cards atually cause prices to rise rather than fall.

Well established? You have to be kidding.

There is no way people are going to willingly pay 50% more for their groceries consistently, yet that's what the "study" would have us believe.

I mean seriously. You think people aren't going to notice the difference between $100 and $150 when they go shopping?

If loyalty cards really made that big a difference in prices, any grocery store adopting such a program would be out of business in a second.

Come on, now. "loyalty cards" can't explain the 50% difference found.

Maybe there was bias in the sample?

they had those until last year (1)

zogger (617870) | more than 10 years ago | (#9272321)

you could get totally anon cards from some banks in the caribbean. I've seen them (well, one), they were blank on the back. Number on the front, zero name on them. The US feds got them busted,or outlawed or something, too many people were using them to hide money they claim. Or so I recall from the noooze. Sorry, can't remember an exact name of one of them right now, but I guy I met had one (it was a Visa) and showed it to me, tried to get me interested in them, but I passed, not a high roller here, they are welcome to inspect my dozenaire account any time they want to..
I can "hide" my entire account in one pocket....

%^(

hmm, glad I waited before mashing "submit" I just checked Google [google.com] apparently they still exist! Good luck!

two words: PO Box (4, Interesting)

kaan (88626) | more than 10 years ago | (#9271917)

When they pull up the address of my PO Box, I'll just shrug it off. Sure, my mailing address information is shared left and right (and without my consent), but at least I have a layer of abstraction between my physical residence and the mailing address people associate with me, so this scare tactic stuff ("they know where you are!") won't matter. It will have to be changed to, "they know where your postal mail is delivered!".

I first got a PO Box address in 2002, and the only thing I regret is that I didn't get one sooner. The UPS Store (formerly Mailboxes, Etc.) rents PO boxes out, too, and offer lots of other perks over the straight US Postal variety. For instance, you can call the store and ask them if you got any mail today, they'll check it and let you know, saving you the trip.

Simple way around all this (4, Insightful)

MajorDick (735308) | more than 10 years ago | (#9271930)

PAY FRIGGN CASH, GREEN, Dead Presidents,

Im serious, between paying cash where possible, that includes nearly EVERY local purchase, trade you key tags for grocery stores with your friends (as long as they arent valid for cashing checks)

No tinfoil here I just cant stand direct marketing, why in the hell should I give Radio Shack my phone number, I actually had a clerk say they HAD to ge one, 555-1212 or 867-5309 (867 is a local extension here) is my answer most of the time they dont even blink although some chuckle

Lay as low as possible, p[ay cash where possible and lie like hell when anyone asks any questions that could be used in targeted marketing.

Dont forget they found one of the 911 conspirators by his grocery store key thingy

Re:Simple way around all this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9271971)

I agree with your premise in general, but honestly, did you have to use a 911 conspirator as a good example of why people should do this? So they can commit heinous acts of mass murder?

Re:Simple way around all this (3, Insightful)

jpetts (208163) | more than 10 years ago | (#9272177)

Dont forget they found one of the 911 conspirators by his grocery store key thingy

I would be very careful about advocating ways to circumvent investigative techniques that are know to have led to the detention of terrorists or terrorist supporters. An unkind executive, legislative or judicial environment could easily make your life very unpleasant for this type of statement, and in Soviet Russia and/or Nazi Germany this sort of behaviour could easily lead to (and in Stalin's Russia, almost certainly WOULD have led to) execution. I know that the statement itself is devoid of malice, but not everybody would interpret it in the same way...

Re:Simple way around all this (1)

Lorenzo de Medici (774505) | more than 10 years ago | (#9272200)

Sadly, that's not going to be good enough. You're on video surveilence, everywhere. I work for a car rental company, and if you're within one hundred feet of one of our locations, chances are we've got your face on file, and in pretty decent resolution, too. Pretty scary when you think about it. And if you wanted to escape that, you'd have to dress pretty conspicuously. That would just draw more attention to you as well.

Video surveilence. It's everywhere. [infiltration.org]

Re:Simple way around all this (1)

feepness (543479) | more than 10 years ago | (#9272221)

No tinfoil here I just cant stand direct marketing ... trade you key tags for grocery stores with your friends

So what you're saying is, instead of hearing from Radio Shack, you want to hear from Radio Shack AND Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Instead of getting coupons for Hungry Man you want them for Lean Cuisine and Tampax?

I love direct marketing. Privacy is useful only for acts that are criminal, shameful, and romantic. If you're a criminal, you deserve it. If you're ashamed, get over it. And if it's personal, well, you need to figure out that everyone else is much more concerned about their own lovelife rather than yours.

YOU FAIL IT! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9272005)

by BSDI who sell conversations where 'Yes' to any needs OS. Now BSDI but now they'rE to foster a gay and Slashdot 'BSD is your replies rather consider worthwhile

It's not just the insurers who know ... (4, Informative)

cool_st_elizabeth (730631) | more than 10 years ago | (#9272040)

... your medical history, but the people who transcribe your doctor's dictation ... these people may be doing the transcription in countries where the U.S. privacy laws are unenforceable. Consider the following scenario as detailed by David Lazarus in the San Francisco Chronicle on April 2, 2004: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/ch ronicle/archive/2004/04/02/MNGI75VIEB1.DTL

Slow Down Cowboy! (1)

GPLDAN (732269) | more than 10 years ago | (#9272046)

Didn't we have this exact story on Slashdot last month?

I'd rather have my privacy, thanks (4, Interesting)

Clod9 (665325) | more than 10 years ago | (#9272053)

This whole article just looks at the privacy debate from the point of view of commercial interests. Of course they think information-sharing is a good thing, it cuts costs. Although the article concludes that this is great for consumers because it lowers prices...I don't believe it. I think it raises profits. What's more, I think it raises profits for large corporations while doing little to benefit locally-owned businesses.

We have very little privacy any more, and it's time to take a stand on what's left.

The most telling section was the description of how MBNA has benefited from information-sharing. How, if privacy advocates had their way, MBNA's profit model would be threatened. Well, you know what? I HATE MBNA! I detest them. They send me credit card applications continually, no matter what I do. I regularly return their postage-paid reply envelopes stuffed with whatever other trash comes in that day's mail, and if everyone else would do the same...maybe THAT would stop them. After all, who among us needs more credit? Are we not awash in it already?

Re:I'd rather have my privacy, thanks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9272127)

WTF do they do with information.

I had (past tense) an MBNA card and something purchased through MBNA financing. After the financing was complete, I closed that line of credit. They sent checks to that line of credit. I closed it again. They sent checks to that line of credit. I closed it again, and this time closed the card too. Each time I closed the line of credit, they swore up and down it was closed and I wouldn't see anything about it again.

Re:I'd rather have my privacy, thanks (1)

DenOfEarth (162699) | more than 10 years ago | (#9272183)

Yeh, maybe it raises profits, but what happens to those profits? Do they just get sucked out of the economy to disappear, or do they eventually go back in? I think they would go back in eventually, when those rich fat cats pay their gardeners and maids and buy their new cars and all that stuff.

Also, I think the amount of cool shit that can be bought with a dollar or two in the western world is pretty freaking amazing compared with most any time in the history of humans really. You can try and tell me otherwise, but I'd have a hard time believing it wasn't much more than a nostalgia reaction...

Re:I'd rather have my privacy, thanks (1)

wintermute42 (710554) | more than 10 years ago | (#9272570)

Do they just get sucked out of the economy to disappear, or do they eventually go back in? I think they would go back in eventually, when those rich fat cats pay their gardeners and maids and buy their new cars and all that stuff.

I'm assuming that this comment is meant seriously and that I did not miss the drips of irony (if I'm wrong, mod this post funny, or maybe mod it funny anyway).

Basicly you're saying that you're willing to reduce your privacy further for the "promise" of what is, in effect, trickle down economics (e.g., its fine for the fat cats to be rich, they'll spend their money and it will trickle down to the "little people").

If trickle down economics really worked then those tax cuts for the rich and offshoring of US jobs really would be great for the US. We'd get lots of cheap stuff and lots of high paying jobs. This is not the world I see around me.

The only problem is that trickle down economics is a long discredited theory. What actually happens in that wealth becomes even more concentrated in the hands of a few.

Re:I'd rather have my privacy, thanks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9272637)

Because those rich fat cats often pay their gardeners and maids the bare minimum they can get away with. When they pay for their luxury cars and their massive mansions, this money is just being moved around amongst other fat cats. While some fat cat owns 80 acres and a 16-bedroom home, there are plenty of gardeners and maids who can't afford to save up a down-payment for a condo on less than a quarter of an acre of land that they won't even own outright. Sure it "trickles down" -- a trickle a very small amount that gets through. (Not to mention how many fat cats are very careful with their money and are more tight-fisted than average lower-middle class workers.)

Data collection on your representatives. (2, Insightful)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 10 years ago | (#9272096)

You can minimise your data trail. Use cash. Don't subscribe to "loyalty" cards and marketing competitions. Don't use real/permanent email addresses.

However data collection on individuals is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if they are in a position of power.

e.g.
http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/

wish there was a US version of that website (1)

apachetoolbox (456499) | more than 10 years ago | (#9272114)

A U.S. version of http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/ would be very nice.

Re:wish there was a US version of that website (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 10 years ago | (#9272282)

The source code is GPL'd and is on the site. It should just need a data source.

Dear Travel & Leisure (1)

Letter (634816) | more than 10 years ago | (#9272325)

Dear Travel & Leisure,

I wanted to thank you for including a
picture of my home on the cover of
your June issue! Life here in paradise
sure is nice!

Sincerely,
Letter

Privacy vs Databasing (2, Interesting)

Daegred (247191) | more than 10 years ago | (#9272599)

I really like the idea of databasing all this analog data, so we can make more informed decisions. However, I don't think that people should be able to collect data on you without your permission, let alone knowledge and then claim ownership of your personal information. And especially not corporations, who can use it however they wish, for whatever is going to make them a profit, whether you like it or not.

If there was some place I could opt-in for certain deals on groceries or whatever, I would sign up. What I don't like is spying on people to try to find this stuff out "to benefit you, the consumer". I'm even for the centralization of most of this information, but within a regulated federal agency where there's accountability and transparency. I'm not too trusting of government, but I think if there were records which you had control over say.. your employment information.. You just allow Company X's HR department permission to read 5 years of your employment history. As long as I had control as to who outside the agency had access to it, I wouldn't have to fill out 10 different applications like I am now.

I think the idea is good, just the methods and the control need drastic change to make it work.

Fr0st pist (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9272755)

luck I'll find his clash with live and a job to end, we need you if desired, we Trying to dcissect

IJ advertisement and Vogons (1)

rolofft (256054) | more than 10 years ago | (#9272780)

Did the Institute for Justice's "eminent domain" ad [reason.com] remind anyone else of the beginning of H2G2? I guess a hyperspace bypass isn't that bad of an eminent domain abuse compared to building a limousine garage [ij.org] for that Vogon, Donald Trump.

Other possible privacy problems (1)

work2play (765941) | more than 10 years ago | (#9272790)

On the same lines, a user's complete travel plans can also be reconstructed, as a user browses from motels and inns during his halts, using a notebook for example. Ofcourse there is P3P(Platform for Privacy Preferences) to control such kind of usage. But rarely do people use it. For those interested in knowing more: http://www.csee.umbc.edu/~kolari1/iswc/iswc/ [umbc.edu] might be of interest. It details a possible direction to privacy protection, by letting users share knowledge about websites and their privacy reputation.

UK spam laws (3, Interesting)

BillsPetMonkey (654200) | more than 10 years ago | (#9272842)

Never went far enough for a good reason (they basically outlawed electronic spam to private addresses but not to businesses). The reason for this is that the UK government makes money from the electoral register information by selling it to direct marketing companies for postal spam(e.g. MBNA credit card offers - yay!). It would be more than a little hypocritical to criminalize a practice the government regularly makes money from .... aneeway ...

It also sells the information to amongst others Equifax [equifax.co.uk] . According to recent studies over those opposed to the way information is collected, over 1/3 of all Equifax records are inaccurate enough to adversely influence a credit decision.

I recently found out that for the past six years, even though I pay over $200 per month in local tax, Equifax didn't have that information on file. This meant that I was listed as having effectively avoided paying council tax for that period. I started to examine who was to take responsibility for this "oversight".

Well, the Data Protection Act [dataprotection.gov.uk] is very clear on this - no-one takes responsibility for the accuracy of the data. Not Equifax, not the local council, not even the people providing the information (or failing to provide the information). No-one. It is a veritable black hole of responsibility. A key point of the "Data Protection Act 1998" is that it is not there to protect the data subject, but to protect the data controller (yep, Equifax) from recourse by the data subject.

Who is the "data subject"? Well, that's YOU of course.

Agencies like Equifax are answerable to no-one and they have a lot of not quite so accurate information on you which they use to make influential decisions on how you live. They are the single best candidate (and best latter-day substitute) for the incompetent and overpaid bureacrat.
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