Thursday, October 05, 2006

How much is your personal information?

I was reading through an article where the leader of leader of Bracknell Forest BC has suggested that people who allow their data to be sold to marketing firms could receive council tax cuts. There is more to this:
Paul Bettison told a Conservative party conference fringe meeting that the information from the council's smartcard system could be sold if controls on government databases were loosened."If I could use the information on the 45,000 residents who carry cards, I believe I could be the first council in the country to have a zero council tax," Bettison, e-champion of the Local Government Association (LGA), told the Conservative Technology Forum on 2 October 2006.Such use of the data gathered through the E+ cards, previously known as Edge smartcards, would be voluntary for residents – but for those who did not wish to take part, "it will be £1,400 for a band D," Bettison said.He added that the data held by the council, such as library books borrowed, indications of income and family, could allow companies to target direct mail with enough accuracy to stop it being annoying, as it would present people with offers that were of genuine interest. "Targeted junk mail isn't junk mail," he said. "It's welcome if it's relevant to me.
According to the same article, the Council has indicated that it has no plans to follow up on the idea, but it raises broader questions not only on the privacy of individuals to control their personal information, but also their right to use their information for a commercial incentive. Certainly, supermarkets have already started this line where you sign up for their store cards and build up points on the card in exchange for discounts such as money off coupons etc... I should add one does not have any objection with anyone signing up for a store card. However, if we ponder about the profiles that are being formed about consumers' shopping habits, then this information is certainly valuable to any marketer.

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