Retail Transactions and Privacy

I purchased a couple pairs of shorts the other day (Wednesday before Thanksgiving) and to my surprise the retailer ask me if I’d like them to record my driver’s license number to make any return easier (by swiping the information into the terminal).

WTF?

Last time I checked retailers were not entitled to the information on my driver’s license.

And this was particularly eerie to me because a group of my friends and I had been discussing an issue concerning the collection of personal data on consumers as part of the return process.

Of course, there’s not federal law that limits the amount of information a retail establishment can request (well — unless that transaction has to do with health care, and the HIPAA would require that you be provided with a privacy policy covering how the information could be used — but they can still ask).

To me, the moment the Patriot Act was signed American freedoms and privacy quickly started to spiral down the toilet; and I said it a decade ago and I’m still saying it — the law needs to be repealed.

I personally do not feel that retail stores are entitled to any personal information; that they should be required to honor their return policies as clearly posted; and that in order or collected and store personal information they must obtain a signed release at time of sale, and understand that they and their agents are fully and completely liable for any misuse of that information not explicitly contained in the signed release.

And while I don’t generally jump up and down about federal laws we need — we definitely need uniform consumer protection across this country.

Some states have a patchwork of laws that partially protect consumer privacy; but even in those states business have abused the laws because consumers don’t have a clear, consistent understanding of them — and I’ll point out that with more and more consumer transactions involving interstate commerce, only a federal law would really be able to insure consumer privacy.

Originally posted 2012-11-24 12:00:45.