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Canada Dashboard Digest | Notes from the IAPP Canada Managing Director, September 11, 2015 Related reading: What does it mean to be a chief data ethics officer?

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In an article in The Globe and Mail this week, some interesting facts emerge about how people, and Canadians in particular, feel about loyalty programs. The article states, "Less than one in 10 of those surveyed in Canada actually felt they had received something of value in return for handing over information about themselves.” I’m not sure of the report’s scientific accuracy, so I cannot comment on whether or not this stat is ultimately correct. But, even if it is only roughly accurate, I’m left scratching my head wondering why on Earth people are signing up for these programs? I mean, the very next stat revealed in the article is that 89 percent of Canadians belong to a loyalty program—compared to only 85 percent of people globally. Nine out 10 people belong … and yet almost no one feels that they derive any benefit from belonging. Something’s amiss.

I belong to a few programs, though I’m not a zealot about my membership—at least I don’t think I am. I once heard from a guy who actually ran out of gas on the street because he skipped several gas stations in search of the one where he could collect his points. That’s dedication!

So what is the trade-off? For me, the loyalty program has to give me something tangible—something of real value—in return for the personal information I’m providing them. For example, I’ve done quite well doing Christmas shopping based on the points I’ve earned. I’ve also enjoyed the occasional upgraded flight to Vancouver because of them. And, while I’m not completely naive to the value of the information I’ve given up, I also don’t feel that I’ve given up too much. Lastly, I do trust the loyalty programs I belong to—whether that’s because I’ve looked into them or because of their brand, I’m not always sure, but trust is a big factor. 

What about you? Do you belong to any? Presumably, if you’re reading this, you have at least a passing interest in privacy. If that’s the case, where do you stand on loyalty programs? Are they a legitimate business model in this information age we live in?

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