UK gov’t to question retailers on consumer privacy

MPs are set to grill executives from supermarket giant Tesco and Nectar loyalty card firm LMG on how they use customer data — and how privacy is protected.

The retail executives will give evidence to the Commons home affairs committee’s inquiry into the “surveillance society.”

The investigation has already heard the information commissioner, Richard Thomas, call for his office to be given new powers allowing uninvited investigations to examine data protection measures.

Thursday’s hearing will examine commercial companies’ use of monitoring information, such as the data collected for marketing purposes or the financial information gathered by credit checking agencies. The MPs will examine how the information is collected, how it is used and how it is protected from abuse.

Witnesses include Nick Eland, legal services manager of Tesco, which gathers information on consumers’ spending habits through its Clubcard loyalty scheme and tailors special offers accordingly.

Martin Briggs, corporate affairs director of LMG, the firm behind the Nectar loyalty cards, will also give evidence to the MPs.

Earlier this year, LMG renewed its contract with Sainsbury’s, beefing up the level of analytics on customer spend provided to the supermarket firm. Under the new contract Sainsbury’s will receive analysis based on data from its checkout tills as well as Nectar information.

Also appearing at the evidence session are officials from the International Association of Privacy Professionals, credit reference firm Experian and the Finance & Leasing Association trade body.

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