Friday, February 11, 2011

California stores can't store your ZIP code

A ruling came down from the California Supreme Court that's eminently sensible: your ZIP code constitutes personally identifiable information that can be used in conjunction with your name to determine where you live and exactly who you are, and California merchants aren't allowed to keep it on file. To me this is eminently sensible.

Now, the reporting on CNN is a bit hysterical. The reporting says retailers can't ask for your ZIP code. The ruling, OTOH, says explicitly that retailers can ask for it and use it in conjunction with authorizing your credit card, and notes that this is what the law explicitly says and not their interpretation. It's the recording of the ZIP code for uses other than authorizing a credit-card transaction that the law and this ruling prohibit. This ruling doesn't do a thing to compromise transaction security or identify verification. All it does is remind retailers (and the lower courts) that yes the law really does prohibit a retailer from building a database of consumers and their buying habits without the explicit consent of the consumer. I know retailers don't like that, but them's the breaks. Consumers don't like retailers doing it, and there's no particular reason businesses should always get their way regardless of how their customers feel. Businesses always say that if consumers don't like practices they always have the option of not patronizing those businesses. Well, if businesses don't like California's practices they always have the option of not doing business in California, no? Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

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