2013-06-15 – I just got back from the grocery store where I presented my frequent shopper card so I could get 54 cents off on a bottle of Diet Dr. Pepper. A good deal all around. I saved 54 cents and the grocer got my data. Honestly, I don’t remember what data I gave to get the card, but it enables the grocer to track my habits and send me coupons. One father discovered his teenage daughter was pregnant because his daughter was using his frequent-shopper card to buy products typical of pregnant women. Then he began receiving coupons for those products. Lucky him.
The NSA should learn a lesson here. Instead of going to a super-secret FISA court to get permission to spy on American citizens, they should instead offer discounts in exchange for permission. Who would pass up a bargain like that?
It works in all areas of life.
Take the tollways. We don’t live near a tollway, so it was never much an issue till my son Cal began attending Grinnell College in Iowa. You need to take a tollway to get to IA from Chicago. In pre-Grinnell days, we just paid tolls by throwing coins into the chute. Now we have an I-Pass that lets us skip the toll both, allowing them to charge our account when sensors detect our I-Pass driving down the road. And, guess what, I-Pass tolls are lower than cash tolls. In exchange, the State of Illinois has a record of our travels.
Honestly, though, some folks get us to sign away our private information without even giving us anything in return—other than the privilege to view ads driven by the data they collect. Are you a member of LinkedIn? How many times have you been asked to give LinkedIn access to your email address book? They say it is to help them provide you with networking connections. But did it occur to you that if you have a person’s email address, you are probably already connected?
And then, when they offer you potential connections, where do they come from? From your connections (two degrees of separation), their connections (three degrees of separation), and their connections connections (four degrees of separation), and so on.
And here’s where it gets special. I signed up for a new networking app this week in connection with some research I am doing for my job. It asked me for permission to access my LinkedIn data! I clicked OK.
I’m thinking that all the NSA has to do is follow the lead of social networking sites and simply ask your permission. Chances are, you’d give it.
If not, they could give you a coupon for 54 cents off your next bottle of Diet Dr. Pepper.
And, if that doesn’t work, maybe the government could hire Twitter to fight the war on terror. (Oh, yeah! They already do that.)