Standing in line at a well-known store, I witnessed something that made my jaw slightly drop and my ears perk up. The clerks who were finishing the transactions asked two questions, phone number and e-mail address. To my surprise multiple people answered both questions readily without asking why such information was needed. There was no need for the e-mail addresses or the phone numbers, simply marketing and advertising opportunities, yet these customers were willing to just hand out their information like flyers on a New York City street corner.
The lack of care as to why this information was being asked for is disturbing as it shows a growing lack of care for privacy and a misunderstanding of personal information. My e-mail address is a conduit for people who I know to reach me as well as services that I knowingly ask for, simply giving my address out to everyone is not in my best interest, no matter how much I love the store (without knowing their policies on e-mail). The one instance of when I give my e-mail address to a store is to receive a copy of my receipt so that I do not have a paper version floating around.
Giving out an e-mail address is one thing since a person can filter it and limit their amount of spam, however, lackadaisically telling someone your phone number is a completely different subject. Your cell phone and home phone are direct lines to you, there is no filtering besides caller ID. If you are using your cell phone as a central contact number then caller ID does not do much because you may receive calls from numbers you do not know. This is why caution when giving out personal information is so important, especially when you are not given full disclosure on how that information will be used.
To bring this little blurb full circle, the most interesting part of witnessing this exchange was the ages of the people involved. The three young ladies who gave their information out with no question were no older than 20 and none of them had any problem spelling out their e-mail address. No thought was given to spam or to marketing, just the impulsive, immediate spelling of the address. I’m not sure we will ever go back to people being protective of what is personal and private, I do not know if the concept of either is even understood anymore.