• United States
Contributing Writer

Your take on privacy vs. convenience

Jan 16, 20033 mins
Enterprise Applications

* Does providing personal info for convenience's sake compromise your privacy?

In response to my recent newsletter on how Kroger is using thumbprints in lieu of cash or credit cards, I received a round of messages taking up the sword for privacy.

One gentleman put forth the argument that we are going down the road of giving up samples of our DNA in return for certain commerce privileges.

“Give someone your DNA and you have given them you and your family’s genetic map to your health and other things,” he says. Armed with this information, he says companies can deny you access to certain things.

For instance, he argues that knowing the genetic makeup of your family might make a company turn you down for a job. Why? Maybe they can tell you are going to be sick more often. You can also be denied insurance if they can tell your genetics belie certain illnesses.  What about education, he says? Why would anyone offer to reimburse you for education if it is clear genetically it will not be worth the effort?

Another reader has a similarly skeptical outlook. “The naked truth about this problem is that it’s already too late,” he says. “In the guise of convenience, fraud prevention, deadbeat dad tracing, proper medial attention and other areas too numerous to mention, we have traded so much of our ‘privacy’ that the only arena left for discussion is who controls the data.”

As an example, he says that although he never served in the military or committed a crime, his fingerprints are on file with the government because he once worked in a state mental hospital.

He says the only way to protect your information is to have the right to sue whoever is putting that data in jeopardy.

Another reader says that the efforts to save time are misplaced on these types of technologies and that other things can be done to improve the customer experience. For instance, she says that if gas stations worried more about making the gas pump faster rather than a one-second improvement on the credit card transaction, time would be saved exponentially.

She adds that organizing stores in a more logical manner and adding more checkout clerks and baggers, as well as other such measures, would make more sense than the incremental gains of technologies such as thumbprint transactions.

 “The risk of a profile database to save a few seconds at the end of daily transactions that take much more time by their nature is just not worth it to me,” she says.

What do you think? Should companies – online and bricks and mortar – worry more about technologies that improve the overall experience rather than the mere exchange of money? Let me know at