advertisement
advertisement
advertisement

This is page 2 of:

Williams-Sonoma Zip Code Ruling: Just In Time To Be Irrelevant

February 17th, 2011

Keep in mind that this is a California law, and this ruling is specific to the Golden State. The impact is bigger than that, though—partly because California is so big, but also because the state is a bellwether for both retail and legal trends. When California courts decide to expand the range of what qualifies as personally identifiable information in retail, other courts are likely to follow.

That leads to the other irony, which is that old-school techniques such as collecting Zip codes are already on the way out. To stop collecting that information is much less of a hardship for retailers today. Sure, it’s easier than ever to feed names and Zip codes into database engines that spit out mailing lists to target unenthusiastic customers.

But today, huge numbers of in-store customers will voluntarily divulge much more—and much better—information. How much they spend, what stores they visit, what products they buy and which coupons they use can all be tracked in detail, and with customers’ full cooperation.

Online, customers will volunteer E-mail addresses and personal information and even tie themselves to retailers’ Facebook pages. Does that customer’s IP address qualify as personally identifiable information? Interestingly enough, an IP address in the online world is much more specific—and therefore identifies a consumer much more closely—than does a Zip Code in the physical world.

This fact was actually addressed in a 2009 court case, when a federal judge in Seattle ruled that “in order for ‘personally identifiable information’ to be personally identifiable, it must identify a person. But an IP address identifies a computer.” Is that a material distinction in a privacy discussion?

It hardly matters—the customers you want will likely be glad to tell you all about themselves.

Mobile commerce is still in its early stages, but it’s quickly developing the same pattern. You don’t have to be sneaky to squeeze phone numbers out of customers. They’ll jump at the chance to sign up to receive your text alerts, coupons and other mobile shopping offers. And this is above and beyond all of the location- and cell-phone-specific data that mobile devices surrender automatically.

Remember Best Buy’s ill-conceived in-store kiosks that looked just like its Web site, except with higher prices? Those turned out to be illegal, too. Today, of course, such a tricky gimmick is useless. So many customers can check a real Web site on their phones that a deceptive kiosk wouldn’t last a week. It’s not just illegal; it’s obsolete.

The days of trying to trick the unwilling into listening to pitches they don’t want to hear are gone. You have real, enthusiastic customers who believe loyalty programs and text alerts aren’t annoyances or invasions of privacy but valuable shopping tools. They want to spend more money at their favorite retailers.

But wasting your associates’ time in questionably legal efforts to scrape up a little information that can be spun out into mailing lists that will only irritate uncommitted customers? Even if it weren’t illegal, that’s a crime against retail.


advertisement

Comments are closed.

Newsletters

StorefrontBacktalk delivers the latest retail technology news & analysis. Join more than 60,000 retail IT leaders who subscribe to our free weekly email. Sign up today!
advertisement

Most Recent Comments

Why Did Gonzales Hackers Like European Cards So Much Better?

I am still unclear about the core point here-- why higher value of European cards. Supply and demand, yes, makes sense. But the fact that the cards were chip and pin (EMV) should make them less valuable because that demonstrably reduces the ability to use them fraudulently. Did the author mean that the chip and pin cards could be used in a country where EMV is not implemented--the US--and this mis-match make it easier to us them since the issuing banks may not have as robust anti-fraud controls as non-EMV banks because they assumed EMV would do the fraud prevention for them Read more...
Two possible reasons that I can think of and have seen in the past - 1) Cards issued by European banks when used online cross border don't usually support AVS checks. So, when a European card is used with a billing address that's in the US, an ecom merchant wouldn't necessarily know that the shipping zip code doesn't match the billing code. 2) Also, in offline chip countries the card determines whether or not a transaction is approved, not the issuer. In my experience, European issuers haven't developed the same checks on authorization requests as US issuers. So, these cards might be more valuable because they are more likely to get approved. Read more...
A smart card slot in terminals doesn't mean there is a reader or that the reader is activated. Then, activated reader or not, the U.S. processors don't have apps certified or ready to load into those terminals to accept and process smart card transactions just yet. Don't get your card(t) before the terminal (horse). Read more...
The marketplace does speak. More fraud capacity translates to higher value for the stolen data. Because nearly 100% of all US transactions are authorized online in real time, we have less fraud regardless of whether the card is Magstripe only or chip and PIn. Hence, $10 prices for US cards vs $25 for the European counterparts. Read more...
@David True. The European cards have both an EMV chip AND a mag stripe. Europeans may generally use the chip for their transactions, but the insecure stripe remains vulnerable to skimming, whether it be from a false front on an ATM or a dishonest waiter with a handheld skimmer. If their stripe is skimmed, the track data can still be cloned and used fraudulently in the United States. If European banks only detect fraud from 9-5 GMT, that might explain why American criminals prefer them over American bank issued cards, who have fraud detection in place 24x7. Read more...

StorefrontBacktalk
Our apologies. Due to legal and security copyright issues, we can't facilitate the printing of Premium Content. If you absolutely need a hard copy, please contact customer service.