Possible Breaches of Privacy 2 for 1 With Discount Card
According to an AP story, seen here, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) used supermarket shopper-card’s to help pinpoint the source of a recent salmonella outbreak. This was the first time that this tool in the CDC’s arsenal was used to locate the specific tainted product and certainly saved lives by more quickly identifying the problem item: pepper used to season salami. Stores even used the data to send out notices to customers with the salami in their purchase history.
Currently, the CDC relies on victims to volunteer their information. As most food borne pathogen victims want answers, they are sure to comply. However, others fear that the government will have its hands on personal information. Conceivably, the U.S. Government could use this data to determine how many and which Medicare and Medicaid recipients are eating sugary, fatty or generally unhealthy foods. What is more, if the U.S. Government institutes some form of national healthcare, this information could theoretically be used to alter health premiums. With a nation that is seemingly against government intrusion into its personal life, this kind of data source could prove politically, and possibly constitutionally, problematic.
Despite the fact that the records are “treated with the same confidentiality as medical records” (AP Story), privacy concerns are present. This is somewhat similar to the airport full-body scanner situation. There is a clear benefit to giving up a drop of privacy, but the fear comes from the ever-present slippery slope. How many times can we justify a small breach of privacy until the right of privacy has eroded away to nothing? Supermarket shopper-cards are elective, just like flying, so those with great privacy fears can choose not to sign up for them. Still, it never hurts to take a second look at a government action and determine how far of a slide it will be down that slope.