I recently went to my usual neighborhood grocery store on the way home, like I do a lot, bought some groceries and food for dinner, and proceeded to the checkout. Since I frequent this particular grocery store, upon checkout I wanted to use my store rewards card in order to get any pertinent discounts, e-coupons applied, and fuel points earned. The thing is, I have no idea what my rewards card number is. So without thinking, I asked the cashier if I could give him my phone number associated with the card. Of course he said yes. Standing at the register, with three of four people behind me, two other checkouts lines on either side of me with customers, and about a half dozen store employees all within hearing range, I proceeded to give my phone number as if I did not care about my privacy the least bit. I was tired, wanted to go home, I certainly wanted those discounts and store fuel points, and I didn’t give a second thought about the potential for close to twenty people having an opportunity to know my phone number. Sometimes when I go to a different grocery store, they have the self-checkout kiosks and I can just punch my phone number in on a screen without shouting it out like I’m proud of it. This particular store, the one on my way home, does not have kiosks that have that feature. Their kiosk machines scan reward cards only, and if you want your store rewards card tied to that purchase, you have to go flag down a store employee and still give them your telephone number. I walked to my car with my groceries in hand, sat in the car to start it up and head home, and drove home thinking about how I put my own privacy at risk.
How often do we do this? How often do we compromise or forget or take our privacy seriously? If you have a smartphone, the answer to that is daily. Every time you pick that smart phone up, use an app, jump on the Internet, look at Facebook or other social media, pay bills, check your bank balance, transfer money, etc. Isn’t it all risk? But that smartphone is convenient, useful, jam packed with tools to help your life. Tools such as maps for driving, emails for correspondence, apps you need for your job, a calculator on the go to help if you’re math challenged like me, maintaining electronic friendships, texting, taking photographs and videos, oh and receiving and making phone calls as well. Maybe you don’t care about the compromise. If you’re reading this, hopefully you do. If you have anxiety over this, you are not alone. So do I! However, I’m learning to accept the things I cannot change, give myself grace, slow down, and start questioning those compromises. Do I really have to say my phone number out loud to the grocery store clerk (and twenty other people) when checking out, or is there a better way to do this? Yes, there are better ways. How about carrying the actual store rewards card in my wallet, or memorizing my store rewards number and use that instead of my phone number. Or take a photo of my store rewards card on my phone and save that photo. These are easier and somewhat safer options, that won’t lead me to shame myself later or feel worried about potentially twenty people prank calling me or selling my phone number to criminals for their own gain. I realize this is a silly, small example, but this is the world we live in. The dangers of our private information being exposed to the world can be scary. Stay tuned on privateandfree.co for more stories and suggestions.