Consumerist reader Eyebrows McGee (probably not her real name) suggests a clever and subversive technique for sticking it to the Loyalty Program Man: swap your loyalty cards with other shoppers. The cardexchange.org website is a one-stop destination for finding someone out there you can exchange with. But before you visit it, you should consider the consequences and risks.
For one thing, swapping cards doesn’t stop the data collection process, it just breaks it; for all you know, your local Rite-Aid will just now assume that you switched to another brand of soap, or that you seem to have a recurring case of jock itch, or that you suddenly developed diabetes. This is all very funny, yes, but since it will be linked to your name, it doesn’t actually give you true privacy, but rather replaces your real data profile with a false one. Another thing to keep in mind is that, in the case of cardexchange.org, you have to exchange physical addresses with a complete stranger–which sort of ruins the point of “protecting your privacy” in the first place.
Another risk, however unlikely, is that your shopping records can be subpoenaed, which means… well, you can imagine the various thriller scenarios where you’re framed for a horrible crime and, because of an unlucky coincidence in your totally fabricated shopping record, you seem to have a long history of purchasing rat poison. (We’re not sure this would ever hold up in court, but we have an abiding fear of prison.) The sad truth is that your shopping records can be subpoenaed whether they’re really yours or not, but at least if they’re actually yours, you can make sure they don’t contain incriminating information.
There was a flurry of online interest in subverting loyalty programs a few years back, but most of what remains of it today is displayed on web pages from 2002 or older. For those inclined to civil disobedience, your best bet if you want to muddy the data record yet still retain some trust is to follow Eyebrows McGee’s advice, and swap with friends (and/or family).