Bill Won't Halt All Club Card Data Use 

Bill Won't Halt All Club Card Data Use 
Posted by FoM on September 08, 1999 at 09:18:51 PT
By Kimberly Kindy
Source: Orange County Register
Consumer groups said shoppers won't be protected from the supermarket club card's greatest danger even if the Supermarket Club Card Disclosure Act of 1999 is enacted this month.
A database of every customer's purchase will still be maintained, and just because grocery stores can no longer share the data or sell them to private marketing companies, that doesn't mean the information will be kept private."You might think it's secure, but it's not," warns Jon Golinger, consumer program director of the California Public Interest Research Group.For example, shoppers can find those records used against them in court.In November, the Drug Enforcement Administration served the now defunct Smith's Food and Drug Centers with a subpoena for customers' shopping records and won the battle with the supermarket, which tried to keep the information private.The DEA was hunting for possible drug dealers and looked for large purchases of plastic sandwich bags, typically used to bundle marijuana and other illegal narcotics."I'm a soccer mom and I make lots of sandwiches. I buy a lot of baggies, so will I be a suspect? This whole thing becomes a slippery slope," said state Sen. Jackie Speier, D-Daly City, whose club card bill  which would outlaw sharing or selling customer information with third parties  survived with the backing of the grocery industry. The companion piece  which would have allowed customers to block stores from tracking their purchases  died Friday in an Assembly committee.DEA officials consider the databases an excellent surveillance device that not only tracks buying habits but also pinpoints the location of suspected criminals and logs the time they made specific purchases."Let's say someone purchases a couple cases of beer and later that night they're driving, and hit and seriously injure someone while driving. Police could show that a substantial purchase of alcohol was made and you could go from a DUI to an aggravated murder charge," said James Molesa, a DEA spokesman in the Arizona office that obtained the subpoena. "The stores keep track of your buying habits, so why wouldn't law enforcement be interested?"But groups like the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse and California Public Interest Research Group fear that law enforcement officers won't be the only ones able to use the information in court."I think it's just a matter of time before we see people using this information in child custody battles," said Beth Givens, director of Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. "If you wanted to portray someone as an irresponsible parent, you could look at their purchases of junk food, alcohol, tobacco, contraceptives, sleeping pills or diet pills and make a case."The supermarkets say they'd fight becoming a part of such legal battles, but they can't promise they'll be successful.September 7, 1999By KIMBERLY KINDYThe Orange County Register Copyright 1999 The Orange County RegisterPlease send comments to: ocregister
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