Invisible Information Gathering Through Loyalty Cards

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When you take a look on the paper "Beeinträchtigung der Privatsphäre in Österreich" (Intrusion on privacy in Austria) there is an interesting chart on pages 14/15. This chart shows what information is available to whom and where it is gathered.

In the last column loyalty cards are listed. A lot of data is available to companies whose cards you use. Many shopping chains issue loyalty cards and reward you for using these cards. The question arising is: Why do companies give big discounts only for using their customer cards? The answer is easy and clear: With the information gathered marketing can be triggered more individually and personal data can be sold.

Where in Germany or the USA nearly every grocery shopping chain has such a loyalty program monitoring the shopping behaviors of its customers there is only one such chain in Austria. The Merkur Warenhandels AG has a customer liaison program called "Friends of Merkur" where they offer special discounts for customers taking part in the program. With every single purchase you can also earn loyalty points and redeem them later for special bonuses. Participating is easy as you do not need a special card because you can use your "Bankomat"-card (a popular debit card system run by Maestro which is accepted in nearly all stores in Austria and also many stores internationally). However, there have already been numerous legal court procedures against this program because of abuse of personal data. As a result the program rules have changed to the benefit of customer's privacy. All other grocery chains (like BILLA, Spar, etc) do have loyalty programs but do not monitor their customers transactions, although the technical possibility is given when a customer uses their "Bankomat"-card (but there are no bonus points offered for using the card). As I am a user of the "Friends of Merkur" program I have already noticed that my shopping behaviors are being monitored. From time to time I receive special offers for...
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