The increasing prevalence of ecommerce, social networks and other technological advances offer unprecedented convenience and access to shopping, paying your bills and interacting with the world. With these benefits, there are dangers in putting personally identifiable information on the internet that go beyond the obvious stolen credit card or social security numbers. Responsible online businesses have lots of tools to help set their customers at ease but there is not always a perfect understanding between the parties regarding what they can and will do with private information.
Two recent instances serve as an example of how the privacy expectations of the business and consumer may not be one in the same.
Using an automated device to pay for toll roads may make commutes more convenient but there is a trade off if you are hoping to keep your travels to yourself. E-ZPass is a device used primarily in the northeastern United States, which consists of a RFID transponder being mounted in an automobile. As the E-ZPass vehicle approaches a toll booth, there is no need to slow down as the device communicates with the toll facility and debits a pre-established account for the toll. When a consumer uses the device they are also providing the agency administrating the system with a time stamp of where they were at a specific time. The Associated Press reports that of the 12 states that use the automated toll payment system E-ZPass, 7 will respond to civil court orders. This means that in divorce litigation for example, it is easy to confirm where a party was by using this technology.
In another example, a gentleman in Houston has brought suit against 1-800-FLOWERS.com alleging that the company did more with his information than he had authorized. According to a Houston Chronicle story, the plaintiff purchased some items from the online retailer with a credit card. The suit alleges that the items purchased were for a party other than his wife, whom the plantiff was separated from at the time.