Think before you swipe

Don’t swipe that card.

Every time you save 2.5 per cent by using your "frequent shopper card," you lose a bit of yourself to the marketdroids whose raison d’être is to scavenge every bit of information they can about you.

Some might say that if the big chain bookstore knew about every book you’ve purchased, they would be more able to serve your needs with targeted junk mail or references to other businesses. However, letting the bank, AirMiles and the credit card company know you have an interest in intravenous drug use and enjoy reading depression books "for fun" would probably not be a good thing. How might your rates be adjusted if your insurance company discovered through a "membership" card that you spent hundreds of dollars on books about hereditary cancer?

Although regulations aim to protect us from abuses of some personal information, such as medical and legal records, we as consumers must be vigilant about what information we hand out through our purchases. For example, records of your purchases of "Alcoholics Anonymous for Dummies" and "The Avengers’ Handbook" could spread over the Internet to anyone, which could be a problem if you do not have a like-minded government or employer.

Amazon.com and Yahoo! openly admit to collecting and distributing personal information that can include credit card numbers and mothers’ maiden names. Many recent dot bombs including ToySmart.com tried to sell consumer databases to satisfy creditors without notifying their former customers.

To stop the spread of their information, some people purchase Viagra under assumed names and provide other incorrect non-essential information, often implicating other people. Others have resorted to avoiding all forms of plastic for their purchases. This strategy may work in the short term to prevent some types of data collection, but what we need is to educate ourselves and think about how our information is collected and used. Marketdroids get a lot more than their 2.5 per cent back in the form of consumer data and demographics every time you use your card.

Consider this: Does the repairman really need to know that you own three cars, enjoy the outdoors and spend $20 a week on potato chips? Then why did you state that on the warranty registration card?

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