Collection of Information. Part 2

Concerned about our privacy, my wife used her maiden name when preparing such forms, and generally provided false information to many of the more personal questions. Within two weeks, she was receiving credit card solicitations in her maiden name from a credit card company that we had never heard of before. Given that we have been married for 10 years, at which point she dropped use of that name, it is obvious that one of the sites that promised not to share the information collected had done exactly that.

In our experience, this type of incident is not isolated. And our experience is that more and more sites are seeking to invade our privacy. To me, the most egregious and offensive example of a privacy grab happens to be found on the Canada NewsWire Web site at, which asks for income levels, investment values and other personal information. The site states that information won’t be misused, and that your privacy will be respected.  [nb. they do provide an online policy that states they won’t misuse information you provide.]

Let me sell you this bridge in Brooklyn, I say.

This rush to collect private information online stinks to high heaven. Like many, I am thoroughly disgusted with the approach that many corporate sites take in the name of “marketing research,” and refuse to provide such information.

I fight back, as do many users of the Internet, by not giving any real information unless I happen to be entering into a real, economic, legally binding contract. In countless cases, I have told these offensive organizations that my name is Bill Gates or Jean Chretien. I provide bogus answers to their inane questions. On occasion, when my blood boils, I write more offensive things into their offensive Web forms, hoping they will get the hint. And more often than not, I’ll choose to take my business elsewhere.

My attitude is not unique; indeed, personal privacy is emerging as one of the foundations to the activities for many Web servers. Every marketing executive should visit the Cluetrain Manifesto at to get a sense of the attitude emerging online towards current marketing-related privacy grabs.

For this reason, it is obvious that IBM has shown a remarkable level of understanding of the changing attitude occurring with consumers. The company should be applauded for taking an aggressive and proactive stance on the privacy issue.

To the rest of you, I all too eagerly condemn you for each and every private bit of information that you try to collect.

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