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?

Previous post:

Next post: