Privacy

Seattle Animal Control Accessing Grocery Purchase Data Looking for Evidence of Unlicensed Pets

This is going to end up in some very bad places.

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Dog
matsuyuki / CC BY-SA

It's possible to make a libertarian argument in favor of municipal-provided animal control services. Feral dogs, at the very least, present a concrete threat to public safety and have been known to injure and even kill people.

But even if a small government case were made for animal control, what actually happens is that these municipal agencies end up expanding far beyond the public safety purposes for which they were created and take on a bureaucratic life of their own. Go figure! Pet licenses aren't just for covering the bureaucratic costs of making sure animal owners can be held responsible for their pet's behavior. They're revenue generators. Cities and counties want the money for things like fancy, expensive animal shelters and the staff needed to operate them. The public often supports the idea of these shelters because people hate seeing animals suffer, and they associate big shelters with more space, and therefore the likelihood of fewer animals being put to sleep.

But citizens aren't exactly putting up the money to pay for it, and in reality, many pet owners do not comply with licensing laws. Obviously, this does not mean that these owners are not taking care of their pets; they're making sure the animals are getting vaccinated and are otherwise not presenting a public safety threat to their communities. It just means that municipal governments are missing out on millions of dollars that they think they're entitled to.

All that leads us to King County, Washington (home of Seattle). The county's animal services recently sent out loads of threatening letters to pet-owning residents, warning them that failing to get their pets properly licensed could lead to $250 fines. The county was going extract money from them either way.

But how did the county know who owned pets if they weren't licensed? It turns out they got their mitts on direct mail lists from stores that tracked customer purchasing habits through membership cards and the like. For the stores and the private retail environment, they're tools to more directly market consumers with goods they may want or need. In the hands of government, it becomes a lot more sinister. A woman who no longer owned a pet received one of these threatening letters and wondered what was going on. The media picked up the story. From the Seattle Times:

The county hired a Seattle mailing company named Lacy & Par, which retrieved a list of prospective pet owners from another data firm.

The county took that list of possible pet owners, compared it against an internal database of licensed pets, and — voilà! — had a list of Fido lovers who might be stiffing the county. Out went the letters.

These lists, though, could be complete crap, given that the example that triggered the story was about a woman who owned no pets receiving a letter. It seems likely that this method sent the letter to tons of people who did not own pets and likely missed any number of residents who do own pets that are not licensed.

The Times reporting suggests that there's probably not going to be an enforcement follow-up. That is to say, animal control officials aren't going to be showing up on these people's doorsteps to spot check whether they've got unlicensed pets. They were hoping to scare citizens into complying, and a few apparently did.

This example, though, could be another camel poking another nose under the citizen privacy tent to take a big sniff. We have many, many other examples of municipal government collecting citizen data for petty policing purposes and then misusing it in broad, judgmental fashion like this. Consider cities where police collect license plate numbers of vehicles in areas where prostitutes are known to frequent and then sending threatening letters to the homes connected to those cars. Do they know whether those drivers were consorting with prostitutes? Nope. Do these letters have the major potential to interfere with the recipient's family life? Absolutely. (And that's not even getting into whether it's any of the city's business anyway.)

The Times' editorial board very quickly put together a commentary objecting to this government trolling of marketing data because of potential bigger issues besides figuring out who owns pets:

Wait! The government is contacting people who buy pet food to say they are suspected pet-license scofflaws? What's next? A letter from the health department noting purchases of ice cream and potato chips?

Let's make it a little less vague: How about a threatening letter from Child Protective Services noting that your grocery purchases suggest you are not feeding your kids with foods the government deems the most healthy, and if you don't change your behavior, you may have a little visit? It's not an absurd idea, given we're seeing food nannies in the school system meddling with lunches parents are providing to their kids.

As is typical in cases like this, there's going to be a chunk of people who think the problem is due to retailers and marketers collecting our information. That's not the problem. All those people are going to do is try to sell us stuff. The problem is on the government end. It is the government officials who decided they should use our private consumer data to try to extract money from citizens through threats of force.

Read more about the letter "campaign" here.

NEXT: The 2016 Election Was a Holiday from History

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    1. Something about vaccines for children and statues of Benedict Arnold?

      1. Statutes of Benedict Arnold? Don’t give them ideas.

        1. Ah, found the Sowell article that has the parable.

          TW: Townhall

          Back in my teaching days, many years ago, one of the things I liked to ask the class to consider was this: Imagine a government agency with only two tasks: (1) building statues of Benedict Arnold and (2) providing life-saving medications to children. If this agency’s budget were cut, what would it do?

          The answer, of course, is that it would cut back on the medications for children. Why? Because that would be what was most likely to get the budget cuts restored. If they cut back on building statues of Benedict Arnold, people might ask why they were building statues of Benedict Arnold in the first place.

    2. Gotta spend money to steal money.

    3. I believe in one of the original stories that appeared locally, they got a pretty good return on their investment. They got something like over $100,000 in licensing from a couple ten thousand in “outreach”.

      1. Any idea if more resources were paid for during the effort? Because sometimes these revenue generation efforts are a money loss at the end of the day.

    4. A few years ago, some pencil neck was wa deranged around my neighborhood asking about license for pets he observed. I told him to fuck off and if I saw him again I would call the cops on him for stalking little kids and trying to fuck my neighbor’s dog.

      He left immediately.

  1. What in the ever loving fuck? I may have to convince myself this is fake in order to keep my own sanity.

    Also:

    What’s next? A letter from the health department noting purchases of ice cream and potato chips?

    That’s the next step in Obamacare I’m sure.

    1. You’re probably one of those nuts that think a little common sense regulation and enforcement is going to lead to government overstepping its authority and trying to ban transfats or plastic grocery bags or something. Don’t be so paranoid.

      1. Government is the things we do together. We’re just looking out for you.

        1. Under threat or actual use force and violence.

          1. “Some men, you just can’t reach”

      1. Bill Burr is fucking hilarious!

        I don’t think he owns a gun but he tries to be pro-gun.

        1. He owns a gun.

  2. A letter from the health department noting purchases of ice cream and potato chips?

    What is The Times editorial stance on the NSA’s bulk collection of data? Or the CFPB? Or nationalized healthcare?

  3. Rounding up strays is one thing; this is quite another. And the lack of self-awareness re: the Times stance on the health dept and ice cream/potato chips is staggering unless I missed the editorial board’s outcry when Michelle Obama and the rest of the food police wanted to dictate what schoolchildren were eating.

  4. Just remember this the next time all you people here at Reason support common sense gun control like background checks!

    (Nailed it.)

    1. “Common sense” should be the first clue, and “reasonable” the second. Considering where it’s coming from.

  5. … how is there no one, somewhere in the chain of decision making, who would speak up and say “yeah, look, you’re animal control, I don’t care how important you think this cause is, it’s not worth going full Stasi over”.

    1. “I’m only going half-Stasi! I don’t even have neighbours spying on each other budgeted!”

      *aide whispers something in his ear*

      “…until Q3 2018.”

    2. Never underestimate a municipal bureaucrat trying to protect their budget?

    3. how come? Because restraint is not in the bureaucratic DNA.

    4. Animal control has no jurisdiction over rabid politicians.

      1. A shrewd Animal Control director would have a file on the pet of every politician in the county.

        1. Ooh, that explains why journalists are uneasy!

    5. “It’s just an unenforceable letter.”

  6. What if you only buy cat food with cash?

    Asking for a friend.

    1. Then look for more restrictions and monitoring of cash withdrawals; too easy to avoid oversight, for your own good, of course.

    2. why do you think that (some) chain stores are forcing you to use a loyalty card when you check out?

    3. Then they’ll just use the facial recognition software from the store security cameras. After all, it’s for the children!

  7. “If ve kahnt go after ze guns, ve vill go after ze ammo!”

      1. Despite your meing of the link, I agree.

          1. You said I was right about something on that other thread, therefore your credibility is shot.

            1. You’re telling me my credibility was perfectly fine previous to 154pm, Washington DC time?

              1. I just don’t trust my judgement in these matters.

  8. The leashes and collars? Yes, yes, it’s for unlicensed pets, sorry, how much do I owe ya?

    1. AM,

      Have the balls to cop to your sex kink and pay no fees. Wear your spiked collar to the front door so they know you mean business.

  9. For each individual business I interact with, they have the darndist time figuring out what to market to me because they get a very inconsistant set of data points. I’m asserting this mainly based upon their confused and ill-concieved attempts at getting me to spend money on X based upon my shopping patterns they could detect.

    Now if someone were able to aggregate the data from all the places I do business…

    1. This story is reason number a zillion and one that my Kroger+ grocery rewards card is linked to a former Democratic mayor of my fair city.

      Thanks Roxanne!

      1. Roxanne Qualls. Cincinnati?

      2. She don’t have to wear that dress tonight, then?

        1. Of course not. She put on the red light.

  10. It turns out they got their mitts on direct mail lists from stores that tracked customer purchasing habits through membership cards and the like.

    Once upon a time, I was buying beer at a local beer store, and the nice girl behind the counter asked if I’d like to sign up for a “preferred customer” card. I asked her why on earth I’d want somebody to keep track of how much beer I buy. She apparently had never thought of that.

    1. And then you seduced her with your gruff, curmudgeonly, “Get off my lawn!” charms, right? RIGHT?!

    2. If you don’t want it tracked, don’t hand her your card.

      1. People still think this stuff is not being done or will be done by government.

        *adjusts tinfoil beret*

        1. That’s the kicker. A huge amount of the current government tracking and intervention would’ve have been considered Tin-foil hat conspiracy 25 years ago. The population has become so used to being watched and oppressed… they just keep taking it. The coporations are happy to help the government when they can and the government is happy to help the corporations when they can. It’s disturbing how many rights corporations are allowed to restrict, but they get a pass when they commit murder, theft, environmental disasters and on… and on…

    3. In the middle of a conversation about Bush and black helicopters, a coworker once saw that I had a membership card to a chain store and remarked, “Do you have any idea what a corporation like Walmart does with that information? The stuff they could do?” The only reasonable answer seemed; “Guarantee always low prices. Always?”

      Seriously, I have 2-3 cards associated with phone numbers that don’t exist or don’t work. I have 2-3 cards that aren’t even mine. None of which matters because I have a few cards that are mine and associated with my phone number and no one has *ever* called to confirm that the signatory = card holder = card user(s).

      1. There was a while when the local Kroger insisted on a driver license to validate the address because something something check cashing something.

        I just found another phone number that worked.

        1. I never give any loyalty card my real information.

          Kroger still thinks that my name is Ronald Macdonald 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, Washington DC.

          I also use Donald Duck and Gofu ckyoself, 69 Fun Circle, Jerk Missouri

          1. Gofu ckyoself, 69 Fun Circle, Jerk Missouri

            NOW I know why I keep getting all the advertising for lube and flavored condoms in my mail!

            1. Expect a BIG shipment this week!

          2. I noticed that with chip technology, signatures are coming back (as if the chips didn’t slow the process down enough already). It reminds me of a ‘prank’ by John Hargrave where he was signing his name as everything from ‘Please check my ID’ to ‘Zeus’, ‘Porky Pig’, and ‘Jesus Christ’. It went on for months and wasn’t until he tried to buy some $15K in electronics that somebody made him *re-sign* his receipt.

            1. My signature is a squiggly line.

              ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

              Everyone questions it but they cannot do anything.

          3. I like this far better than I like my solution (no loyalty cards). Frak ’em all! If they want to play games, let’s all play games. Now, what shall I use for a name? Ben Dover? Prince Albert (address is Inacan). I discovered years ago that often online systems don’t require a real response, just some response, so a zipcode might be “0” or “00000” if it wants 5 digits.

            This reminds me, I need some more tin foil.

      2. Seriously, I have 2-3 cards associated with phone numbers that don’t exist or don’t work.

        Per chance, is one of them eight-six-seven-five-three-oh-nine?

    4. I never give them my real address.

  11. We can improve society! We have the technology!

    1. And the agenda to go with it; and it’s for your own good.

  12. These lists, though, could be complete crap, given that the example that triggered the story was about a woman who owned no pets receiving a letter.

    Seems like this would leave them open to charges of defamation.

  13. The correct response to actions such as these is to can the whole department. Let the rest of them beware.

    1. Can, as in put them in cans….as pet food, right?!

        1. “What is Alpo?”

          1. +1 Gameshow with formerly mustachioed host

          2. The tallest mountain in Europe?

      1. Is it possible to can woodchipper output?

  14. You have to get a license to have a pet???

    1. No, you have to pay the tithe to the overlords to have a pet.

    2. In MA, it is called a “dog license”. I’d like to see that changed to “registration”. I actually believe in the job they are doing (at least here), and they were supportive, if not helpful, when our previous beagle took off after bugsy (by her bay you shall know her, and I did, and tracked her down). But “registration” not “license”. And btw, if fido is not registered, then we’re not going to help you look, or call you if we find her.I pay for service rendered, and get off on overtipping for excellent service. Sue me, I’m weird that way.

    1. Let’s try again

      The problem is on the government end. It is the government officials who decided they should use our private consumer data to try to extract money from citizens through threats of force.

      Seig Howl!

      1. ?

        You should have just let it go.

        1. Good luck getting laughs outta the ruff crowd around here, Trshmnstr.

          1. Yeah, might as well dock the joke attempts now.

            1. Y’all can’t intimidate us punsters, we know your bark is worse than your bite!

              1. That would have been funnier with ‘byte’.

    2. Please, tell us less…

  15. Those of us who work in the ‘privacy space’ like to use the horror story of a father complaining to Target because they were sending diaper samples to his house. Turned out his teenage ‘innocent’ daughter had been doing searches for pregnancy tests on Target’s website and they were tracking and analyzing her. Although the jury is now out on whether this is an urban legend….
    Of course there’s no government involved, but just imagine if the government decided to check the alcohol-buying habits of pregnant women…
    Some references on the Target story:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02…..d=all&_r=0

    http://www.kdnuggets.com/2014/…..story.html

    1. It has to be urban legend, because you don’t get diaper samples sent to your house merely because you search Target’s website. If it did happen, there was a mountain of shit that happened that they’re not telling you.

      Now, I do remember a woman on NPR who was shocked that when she signed up on a pregnancy website, put in all her personal data, her due date, what the sex of the baby was, what kind of stuff she liked, her hair color, her first and last name, social security number, cell phone, email, and credit card numbers, that she got diaper samples around the time of her ‘due’ date. All of this was of course horrible because she miscarried a few weeks after entering all of the above. That, I can see happening.

      1. They weren’t sending diaper samples.

        I know the story. Target sent out a coupon book for expectant mothers. They sent it out not because she was checking out pregnancy tests. They sent it because the girl was buying items that expectant mothers buy, and buying them in a sequence that was pretty typical (eg. week 5 folic acid supplements, week 6 anti stretchmark lotions etc).

        Target had an algorithm produced by machine learning on their data set of shoppers and their purchases that was capable of mapping purchases to an expected due date with surprising accuracy, and they started shipping tailored coupon books to people that the algorithm judged to be pregnant. The program worked well; those people did use the coupons and make purchases, and Target judged the program to be a great success.

        However, when they sent out the coupons not to the girl but to her parents. They had given the girl their target card. The dad saw these coupons and thought it inappropriate since his wife was no longer of child bearing age and his daughter was underage.

        And he wrote a very angry letter demanding that Target explain themselves. And they replied based on his purchase history they thought someone in his household was pregnant, and he lost his shit and started kicking up a fuss. And then the little girl owned up to the fact she was pregnant.

        Nonetheless it was a bit of a black eye for Target and they added a filter to prevent them from sending coupon books to underage people.

        1. If it was the parents’ target card, how would Target be able to tell that the underage person was the one using it?

          1. The prof teaching the class didn’t say. He told the story to us as an example of the sort of thing we should be aware of when establishing the domain that would be covered by data sets used in machine learning.

            1. Huh

              On the phone, though, the father was somewhat abashed. “I had a talk with my daughter,” he said. “It turns out there’s been some activities in my house I haven’t been completely aware of. She’s due in August. I owe you an apology.”

              1. Oh crap, now that I read the story, I realize I was remembering the ending wrong.

                They started mixing coupons for non pregnant things, like lawnmower air filters and swiffer refils so that the people getting the coupon books didn’t see it as being baby related. It just looked like the coupon book was intended for a broad audience of men and women, but it just happened to have a bunch of coupons for some really useful items like cotton balls, supplements and scent free lotion.

        2. Thanks to Target, Dad found out his daughter was on the pole.

          Great success!

  16. As is typical in cases like this, there’s going to be a chunk of people who think the problem is due to retailers and marketers collecting our information. That’s not the problem. All those people are going to do is try to sell us stuff.

    MON DIEU. Don’t you know that corporations control us by selling us things we want to buy? We need government to protect us from such evil!

  17. So at my local grocery store, they REQUIRE you to show an ID and a current address before you can get one of those shopping club cards. They also won’t let you use the self-checkouts unless you have one. MANDATORY shopping club cards with proof of residency!

    Seriously.

    What the fuck is going on?

    1. This happened to me at a Harris Teeter one time when I was trying to buy a sandwich on sale. I asked them for a copy of their data privacy policy, and when they didn’t have anything to give me, asked them to just ring up my purchase at the sale price. They did it “just this once, as a courtesy” and I’ve never been back.

    2. I don’t believe you.

      1. I don’t believe him either.

  18. So at my local grocery store, they REQUIRE you to show an ID and a current address before you can get one of those shopping club cards. They also won’t let you use the self-checkouts unless you have one. MANDATORY shopping club cards with proof of residency!

    Seriously.

    What the fuck is going on?

    1. Squirrels… that’s what is going on

      1. What’s going on?

    2. I still don’t believe you.

    3. That is rough. I certainly don’t like doing that. Unfortunately I do think this is the future and it will be hard to avoid it. Most Americans, these stories of people being creeped out aside, really don’t seem to place a very high value on their personal information. So if stores wish to start tightening up, they will be able to “get away with it” easily. Those of us who prefer to keep things private will find it extremely expensive to do so. Sucks to be us.

    4. I still don’t believe you either.

    5. So at my local grocery store, they REQUIRE you to show an ID and a current address before you can get one of those shopping club cards.

      That’s ridiculous. I have cards from most of my local stores without filling shit out. You just say “oh, I’ll fill this out and bring it back to you later” and just never do it. Hell, most of the time they just shove the card application in your bag, knowing full well that you’ll never fill it out.

      1. They tie your purchases to your identity based on the debit/credit card used. I use cash for all face-to-face purchases under $1k

  19. I would like to commend Scott for using the picture of a Shiba Inu which is the best breed of dog.

      1. That’s a weird way to spell “collie”.

        1. Even weirder confusing, “Collie,” with, “Samoyed.” That takes some John level phonetic talent.

          1. You are all having an awfully hard time spelling “Australian shepherd”.

            1. Shetland Sheepdog

              1. Sheesh, no one knows how to spell Labrador Retriever?

        2. “They say I had sex with a collie?” – Hillary

    1. I keep hearing that Shibas are very handsome and sexy looking so people want to get them, but they are actually very ill-tempered animals that make people pay the price for their superficiality.

      (Yes, variance among individual genetics and training within the breed is more significant than any interbreed factor, etc. I’m no Shibaphobe, just a breed realist.)

      1. Shiba’s are not ill tempered. But they are a very high maintenance dog.

        My dog who just dies this summer was a Shiba, and he was the greatest dog I ever had. But you are living with a small wolf.

        – you have to establish and maintain your position as the alpha in your pack. IF a person is insufficiently dominant, the Shiba is likely to try to set himself up as the alpha
        – they are incredibly intelligent. If they want to do something, they will work very hard and engage in spectacular problem solving to make it happen
        – if you leave a Shiba alone, he will likely break all your rules because they associate rules with the people who enforce them.
        – they are predators. Our dog would kill one field mouse a week in our yard or out on walks. He also killed two litters of bunnies. One of the litters was owned by a little girl. He climbed one 6 foot fence, dug under another, jumped up to reach the table holding their cage, broke it open. He did this in about a 25 minute period.

        1. – they are great with children, if you introduce them to kids very carefully. If you forget you’ve got a little wolf, they can hurt kids. Ours never hurt the kids, and in fact used to take care of them.
          – they are fearless guard dogs. His alarms stopped a burglary. He also arrested a meter reader once, keeping her prisoner (but unharmed) until a human he trusted could take custody (she said she knew he wasn’t going to hurt her if she didn’t resist, and he never bothered her again.
          – they need stimulation. A bored Shiba is a mischievious one. Give them problems to solve or new experiences to experience, and they cause very little trouble.

          People who get a Shiba thinking they’ve got a lap dog they can neglect are the ones who give the breed a bad name.

          1. That’s why I have cats; Nature’s libertarians.

    2. I was going to get a Shiba, but then thought better of it.

    3. The dog in the pic looks almost exactly what my dog looked like when she was 10 years younger and she’s a Jin-Do. We sure that’s a Shiba?

      1. You have a Jin-Do? Outside of Korea?

        1. Your handle is fabulous.

  20. Excuse me ma’am, you seem to purchase a lot of peanut butter.

    1. How dare you assume my gender!

  21. And, of course:

    “Have you a lah-saunce for thet minkey?”

    1. God how I wish Chance was on someone’s ticket this election.

  22. My last shopping list-

    Soda pop
    Candy
    Duct Tape
    Dora the Explorer DVD
    Boxed Wine
    Bleach
    Rope
    Bubble Gum Flavored Lube
    Cough Syrup
    Shovel
    Coloring Books
    Bone Saw

    Nope, no pet food, That’s a relief. Got it made in the shade…

    1. You have taken a second job as a Personal Shopper for OMWC, yes? Right?

      PS

      Lotion should be on the list also.

      1. You only buy stuff you have run out of, are expecting to run out of or don’t already have…

      1. I know, I know, Soda pop AND Candy, but they’re not going to come after me for THAT, are they?

        But anyway, humor aside, everyone of those items could be on a family’s shopping list within the same week, probably on different errands, but maybe not. Mom and Dad still have a sex life, Mom or Dad likes to cook (including using whole chickens and break them down themselves), Dad is doing some yard work and Mom is doing some spring cleaning (or the other way around in one of those namby pamby “progressive households”). One of the kid’s birthday is coming up, etc etc etc. But depending on what Watcher X wants to make out of the data collected, a shit storm could result. Prone to cracking out the seventh infantry for some pot residue in a garbage can will it be long before a swat team invades a family home based on whatever interpretation of data sociopaths with a badge make on a list like the above?

        1. It’s this mythical belief that gets you on the list, toolkien. You were doing great up until that point.

          Also, keep in mind that timing (such as if there is an Amber Alert in progress, or there has been a legit rash of kidnappings, child or otherwise) and the amount of items purchased may spark Watcher X into action, should the MO of area kidnappings suggest a confluence of case data points. Where, innocent people, as you write, will get caught in a wet net information sweep.

        2. BLJAT’! Forgot the quote:

          Mom and Dad still have a sex life

        3. You don’t need a bone saw to dismember a chicken.

    2. You just made “the” list- buddy!

  23. Here in Virginia vets contact animal control to let them know you have a dog. A month after I moved here from out of state, I received a letter in the mail stating I had to register my dog even though I had never let them know I had a pet.

    1. That’s gruesome. I wonder how many states do this?

    2. Another reason to give vets fake name and address. If you don’t need to leave your pet, give a fake phone number too.

  24. Who in God’s name would ever EVER have given their real name and/or address for one of those shopper cards? I have a few, sure, to avoid paying the premium (they don’t give you a discount, with the card you get regular price, without, they jack it 20% above normal). And each store that I have one, has a different fake name and different fake number, so even those fake ones cannot be somehow linked together.

    1. Fake names, you betcha. And might I add, only pay with cash when using them.

      1. Cash is crucial.They expect people to fake the data so they tie your card to debit/credit identity.

    2. All of mine say, “Dale Gribble” and “Rusty Shackleford.”

  25. But how did the county know who owned pets if they weren’t licensed? It turns out they got their mitts on direct mail lists from stores that tracked customer purchasing habits through membership cards and the like.

    *Cancels all store membership cards*

    1. and these same people think we are paranoid for pushing back against gun registration

      1. Want to watch a (dim) light go off over a progressive animal lover’s head when discussing this subject?

        Ask them if breed-specific legislation along with a dog registry could be used to find and euthanize undesirable dogs, without any kind of grandfathering.

        They will no doubt say “inanimate object!”, to which there are a multitude of great responses to pick from. From “property rights keeps your dog safe”, to “exactly, it won’t do anything without the owner.”

  26. Shacky overreaches when he calls it “private data.” We don’t really expect it to be very private. We knew the store was collecting it, collating it, using it to sell us things, and selling it to anyone with the cash. The government didn’t use the slightest hint of force to obtain it, not even to the extent of identifying itself as government. (And it certainly didn’t need uncommon resources or powers to obtain it, as for example data gleaned from its surveillance cameras or personnel.) It simply bought it on the open market, as your creepy ex-girlfriend could.
    .
    Better to call it personal data. This disambiguation both distinguishes it from the more serious cases of government intrusion, and focuses us more squarely on the matter of what we think government should do with personal information it has readily available to it. We should welcome this as libertarians, because it reminds people that in order to ensure a government that we do not perceive as “intrusive,” we must go beyond the mere idea of “privacy,” and consider matters of a government being limited in function.

  27. And now I’m off the iPad and back on the PC, thank you for that alt-text, Scott. Can you please try to make it site-wide policy tomorrow?

  28. Actually I’m seeing a win win hear for the enforcer class. Not only do they get an excuse to raid houses and shoot dogs, but now they have the tools to focus on just houses with dogs. Cuz good luck shooting at a spooked cat at 3am

  29. Personally, I think the lady in the story ought to sue them for emotional distress. They practically accused her of breaking their little ordinance, scared her and made her relive the death of her beloved pet.

  30. This is going to end up in some very bad places.

    I was sure that subhead was leading to a story of embarrassing some poor people who’d been eating dog/cat food.

  31. I guess living just outside Seattle isn’t enough. Now I have to move out of the gulag… I mean, county, too…

  32. It’s why I don’t do loyalty cards.

  33. >> people who think the problem is due to retailers and marketers collecting our information. That’s not the problem. All those people are going to do is try to sell us stuff.

    Yes, I thought that it was just about them (the stores that issue those cards) trying to sell us stuff. But I guess it is also about the stores selling the data about our purchases to others, so that they can try to sell us stuff. Licenses wasn’t what the stores had in mind, but once they put the data up for sale, they aren’t going to say “except we won’t sell to government agencies”. I wonder if they could have such a policy without getting into legal trouble themselves.

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