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Monday, April 07, 2008


First it was Albertsons/OSCO who asked for my Social Security number to add to their corporate database, just so I could refill a prescription. I refused and they finally gave in. Soon after, an Albertsons check out clerk wanted to input my wife’s driver’s license number to the same system to cash a check for groceries and we declined and walked out with what we came for. And then Office Max said they needed to capture my wife’s driver’s license number into their database in order to honor a return, for which we had the receipt, just because it was over 30 days. Frustrated because it was a sizeable amount of money, my wife gave in because the store manager said it was Office Max policy. The same day I fired off a complaint to the retail chain’s president and learned it is not the policy of the company to do this, and that they would make that store’s management aware of their mistake. They also assured me my wife’s driver’s license number had been deleted from their system. All these three incidents were blatant attempts to acquire personal data intended for inclusion in corporate databases that are similar to those that are being compromised on a daily basis. 8.3 million private records breached already this year, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center from a column in the Washington Post by Brian Krebs. No real harm done from Albertsons or Office Max so why should we worry, you might ask. I found out after researching the latest attempt to jeopardize our privacy which was when Safeway demanded my wife’s driver’s license number, once again to transfer directly into their database. Again, she declined, and the assistant store manager said he would let it go, but for this time only. What that tells me is that they don’t really need it; they just want it. Fired up once more, I went on the Internet and searched for incidents relating to Safeway and privacy, and you won’t guess what I found. Philip Scott Lyons of Tukwila, Washington was arrested for attempted arson last August, accused of setting fire to his own house while his wife and children were inside. Lyons, a firefighter himself, had used his Safeway loyalty Club Card when he bought fire starters similar to those used in the arson attempt. See story. All charges were dropped when the real culprit finally admitted to the crime, but in the meantime Lyons had been put on administrative leave for 5 months. It’s hard to tell who is the dumbest; the Police department who obviously didn’t do a thorough investigation or Safeway for giving up Lyon’s private information before they were sure their customer was a valid suspect. Lyons had to suffer through media accusations like “Firefighter Arrested For Attempted Arson,” and Fireman attempted to set fire to house, charges say,” before being completely exonerated. When you realize the whole thing happened because of the personal data that Safeway was collecting on Lyons, and compounded by the fact that, if he had had control over it, the whole episode could have been prevented.

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