So I was on a rant last time about the positive value I see in the proliferation of interconnected databases that carry information about all of us. I wrote about the upside of, not the threat of, the fact that numerous organizations have detailed information in their databases about me and you, courtesy of sophisticated data acquisition, tracking, and reporting technologies, and that I have no problem with these organizations using their databases to focus market to all of us.
I take issue with the Chicken Littles of the world (“the privacy sky is falling!”) who believe that the extensive matching and integration capabilities of technology and data is an insidious thing – sounds to me like the same kind of conspiracy theory rot I hear from those who oppose the registration of firearms in Canada.
Information about us widely available and actively mined – convenient it is, insidious it ain’t.
I’m back in New Zealand this week, and my Canadian bank cards work just fine over here, thanks. So what if my bank knows where I’m travelling because of the electronic footprints I leave behind? I’m not a criminal, so I don’t worry about it.
If these footprints allow them to track and catch bad guys, all the better.
Case in point: the recent theft of my backpack, complete with wallet and American Express card.
Now I know that the charge card organizations like to keep a close eye on their customers (or “members,” in AMEX parlance), and that they run a very sophisticated set of programs that are constantly cross-checking against themselves to see if anything funny is going on with my account, and I’m OK with that.
When I used my AMEX card in London last fall (buying my daughter a Filofax in Harvey Nichols – how very low tech and how very English), the sales clerk, after zinging my card through the verification thingy (I love technology that’s so background I don’t even know what they call it), came up with a code that had him call AMEX while he held my card in his hot little hand. That he did, and someone at AMEX wanted to speak to me.
A very polite AMEX lady greeted me by name: “Hello Mister Hanley” (no one calls me mister anymore – shades of getting yelled at by Mom when I was in trouble a.k.a. “Get in here right now Mister!”) and asked a couple of questions to establish that it was indeed me making the purchase in question.
After answering her questions correctly, she apologized for the inconvenience, and told me that their system had flagged the fact that I had not previously used my AMEX card in Britain, and they were “just checking” to see that it was indeed me. I was and continue to be me, so no problem – I appreciate the concern.
I’m not na