Pizza and Privacy

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Congress may be back in session, but lawmakers will be too busy debating homeland security to pass those silly postal reform bills. Which leads me to the American Civil Liberties Union's "Summer Surveillance Campaign." Go to www.aclu.org/pizza and watch, listen, laugh and cringe over a customer's attempt to order pizza by phone. (Thanks to privacy consultant and DM News contributor Alan Chapell for the heads-up on this.)


It seems that Pizza Palace knows who's ordering a pizza and everything -- and I mean everything -- about its callers because it was just "wired into the system." When "Mr. Kelly" asks for two double-meat pizzas, "Mary" tells him there will be a $20 surcharge because he has high blood pressure and extremely high cholesterol. "Luckily, we have a new agreement with your national healthcare provider that allows us to sell you double-meat pies as long as you agree to waive all future claims of liability."


Because of a $15 surcharge for the added risk of driving through an orange zone thanks to a recent robbery in the area, Mary then convinces Mr. Kelly to save $48 by coming in and buying the sprout submarine combo, which would be better for him since a Gap receipt she's looking at shows his waist size: 42 inches. She also knows that he just bought plane tickets to Hawaii; that he checked out "Budget Beach Bum" from the library; that his wife, Betty, subscribes to Total Men's Fitness magazine; and that he's maxed out his credit cards. This scenario sounds as creepy as the 2002 movie "Minority Report," which showed Tom Cruise walking through a mall in 2054 and being greeted by name by disembodied, automated voices and asked to buy items to go with previous purchases.


The question is: Can marketers manage this delicate balance, or will they take the information they have access to too far, as in Mr. Kelly's case? The answer might lie in an article Chapell wrote as an online exclusive for DM News this summer. Aptly titled, "I'd Like a Pizza With Onions and Meatballs -- but HOLD the Arrest Warrant," it discusses a company that facilitates the collection of court fees, fines and related costs by buying lists from pizza delivery companies, magazine subscription lists and other private databases. "[I]t feels extremely unsettling to know that I can be hunted down by the Missouri Office of State Courts Administrator over an overdue parking ticket just because I called a nationally advertised pizza joint," Chapell wrote. "Orwell might have been 20 years too early, but otherwise his predictions ring true."


A delicate balance, indeed.


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