How many loyalty programs do you belong to? I used to be with Air Miles, but the tradeoff didn’t seem to make sense anymore so I now don’t use it. Not that I canceled my account; I just don’t offer the card or number when prompted by the few retailers that ask if I collect Air Miles.
I do use Aeroplan because we love to travel and the points ratio seems on par for what I’m giving up. At least from my perspective, it seems to make sense. But that’s partly because I also trust Aeroplan, to a certain extent, that they wouldn’t do anything with my personal information that would cause me harm. I sure hope that trust isn’t ever broken!
There is an entire industry where organizations offer you rewards in exchange for you giving up some personal information. Some require you to fill out surveys, others track your credit card spending, others have you upload receipts after you make purchases. In every case, the organization takes your personal information and offers you some sort of reward — in many cases, straight-up cash. PC Optimum points sure can add up quickly!
For those who don’t make that much money and are having a difficult time buying the basic necessities, these programs can be quite alluring. But I think this might also lead to a tiered society where those who need extra money will give up their personal information for rewards, while those who are better off will not have to bow to the pressure of a bit of "cash back."
I think we need modern privacy laws that adequately address this phenomenon. While I think our reliance on the "reasonable person" test that is currently found in Section 5(3) of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act is a good step, a move toward requiring that information be used in ways that are in the public interest or at least in an ethical interest is a step I would welcome. I think we need to keep our loyalty programs in check and my trust in all too many programs is fleeting. I’d feel better if there were better rules and moral guideposts ensuring these programs act ethically.
I just checked my Aeroplan balance. Phew, I can afford that plane ticket in the fall to take me away on vacation. Not a bad trade, at least in my mind.
Have a good weekend.
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