Privacy Worries for Ingrates

by on April 17, 2010 · 3 comments

It’s intended as a cute line, but the opener of Stephanie Clifford’s New York Times story about custom coupons is packed with ideological assumptions: “For decades, shoppers have taken advantage of coupons. Now, the coupons are taking advantage of the shoppers.”

Meta-data in printed coupons can reveal much about the people using them.

Here’s a shocker, people: Free money might come with strings attached.

It would be wrong to dismiss the privacy problems that custom coupons might contain. They’re similar to the privacy problems that lots of other new technologies and business processes have. But the starting point if you worry about them is that you don’t have to use them.

I don’t—and it’s not even because of privacy worries. I just don’t.

But Clifford quotes two advocates of government regulation in her article—zero advocates of freedom, market experimentation, or innovation. Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director for the United States Public Interest Research Group, says, “There really have been no rules set up for this ecosystem.”

Rules, rules. Anything new has to be draped in rules.

I would have opened the article saying, “For decades, shoppers have taken advantage of coupons. Now, the deal is going to be a little more fair.” Where does the story go from there?

  • jamie

    “For decades, shoppers have taken advantage of coupons. Now, the deal is going to be a little more fair.”

    Right, because newspaper ad salesfolks force them to pay for glossy Sunday supplements. Just pointing out what an inaccurate lede you assert you'd use.

    FWIW, I do agree that demanding “rules” because a change in technology lets folks strike a different bargain is silly, at the very least before things in the marketplace begin to strike people as being abusive. (And really, arguing about coupons seems pretty silly to begin with.)

    But as far as it goes, companies see additional value by being able to tie online behavior to offline coupon use, something that previously was unavailable to them. Users of these coupons are giving up some measure of behavioral data that was previously not part of the coupon bargain. As a coupon consumer, one can legitimately ask for more out of the bargain than was previously offered, and one can only do so if they know what is going on.

    Thus, articles like this, telling folks what is going on, in the only way these articles are written, with a random person from the old rolodex (ahem) willing to be as alarmist as one can get over $.25 off a bag of coffee.

  • http://www.slateism.com/ Aliah

    Thank you for another great post. I look forward to many more entries with high quality info. It was really great visiting your Blog and posts.
    iPad Dock

  • http://www.slateism.com/ Aliah

    Thank you for another great post. I look forward to many more entries with high quality info. It was really great visiting your Blog and posts.
    iPad Dock

Previous post:

Next post: