DUMBING DOWN ON PRIVACY
Jillian Coleman Wheeler and her Grant Me Rich ploy are at it again. On March 19 she e-mailed me the following: “Whether you back the recent stimulus package or not, I think you'll find my newest blog post fascinating.” I didn’t. She continued, “It provides you with a quick overview of the otherwise mysterious process of how this bill is going to turn into grants for you and your fellow citizens.” It won’t, according to Herb Weisbaum’s article, “Free money from stimulus? Are you kidding?” on MSNBC. Most of the activity is from phony Web sites created to suck the life out of this new legitimate program. In her blog, Coleman Wheeler talks about money being funneled into Community Development Block Grants, which may be true, but that’s not what her e-mail says. As quoted above, she makes it look like individuals can participate (“…grants for you and your fellow citizens”), and Eileen Harrington, Director of the FTC’s bureau of Consumer protection flatly states, “There is no money in the stimulus package to send out individual checks to people.” Homeowner insurance mailings will take up the slack in dwindling credit card offers in 2009. DM News, junk mail industry publication, says 82 million offers were mailed in 2008, an almost 19 percent increase over 2007. Since I haven’t received one of these mailings, I cannot say if they are using any personal information in their appeal. If they aren’t, they do have it, you know; things like your percent of down payment, mortgage type and amount, lender name, purchase date, which also tells them the expiration date of your current homeowner policy, purchase price, and the list goes on. By providing this information, I am not encouraging the insurance companies to use the private data; the idea has already been hatched. If they aren’t already, they probably won’t use it until their attorneys tell them that if by doing so, they will still be able to beat the privacy laws. The Comperemedia survey also says they expect similar volume of homeowner insurance mailings in 2009 as 2008. I did a post on February 16, “Credit Card Solicitations Go Underground,” that covered the latest gimmick in credit card mailings. Instead of coming from the CC companies, now they are coming from companies you have regular dealings with who get a fee for hooking you. Your name and personal data in the clouds. You’re at 30,000 feet and you are aching for a martini. You can get one, of course, in the little individual bottle, so you give the flight attendant your credit card to seal the transaction. Bingo! You have just completed a “point of sale touch point,” according to Chief Marketer, a junk mail industry publication. You also did it when you “registered” with the gate attendant, so why not just collect all this good private individual information with a hand-held scanner and shoot it into another database. That is the thinking of the article’s author, Justin Jackson, who works for Donnelley Marketing, a subsidiary of InfoUSA. They are another data broker that ranks up there with ChoicePoint in size. Maybe it all sounds completely harmless to the average consumer, but based on 35 years as a data broker, I can tell you that it is yet another way to shanghai your sensitive data and sell it all over the world. This is only one example, but they came out of the woodwork on a daily basis when I worked in junk mail, and they are the deciding factor of why we are in the throes now of an identity crisis.