When it comes to privacy in this age of data collection and identity theft, many savvy consumers are careful about what personal information they’re willing to share. That said, we’re apparently willing to lower our guard for a Cheez Doodles coupon.

A new poll commissioned by digital advertising company Placecast asked how people feel about companies’ use of their personal information. Many were wary about Facebook – only 33% said they were okay with Facebook using their status updates and profile information to target ads to them. They were only slightly less wary about targeted ads from cell phone service providers, credit card companies and Google. But when it comes to grocery stores using personal information to give us coupons tailored to what we like to buy, we’re fine with that – a whopping 81% approved. (See the full results here).

The data suggest that people are more receptive to personalized ads and offers when they’re actually shopping (Amazon also scored well) and less so when they’re just doing a Google search or seeing what their friends are up to on Facebook. Besides, Amazon and your supermarket already know what you’re buying anyway – it’s a little creepier to think that Google knows what you’re searching for and Facebook knows what you like.

The survey comes just as supermarket chain Safeway has completed the rollout of its hyper-personalized “Just For U” loyalty card program. Rather than simply offering advertised discounts for customers who swipe their cards, Just For U can tailor specific, unique offers to different customers based on their spending habits. “Everything is based on your purchase history and organized for you, so you can save more on what you actually use,” Safeway explains on its website. “Our systems use your purchase history to sort through and organize personal price offers, hundreds of coupons, and all of our weekly Card Specials.”

“Over time, the shelf price becomes less and less relevant,” Safeway‘s CEO says, because in theory, every customer could be paying a different price for the same product.

If it all sounds worth giving up a little personal information, consider this story from London’s Daily Mail. “The government plans to use loyalty card data to snoop on the eating habits of 25 million shoppers,” it says, citing reports that the British government is in talks with supermarkets to share their data. “People with poor diets would be sent tailored advice to improve their health and lifestyles,” the report claims, and “parents could be contacted if their bills show they are not giving their offspring a balanced diet.”

So be careful if you do use that Cheez Doodles coupon. Big Brother may be watching.


photo by: joelogon

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