Pirvacy Illusion or Quiz?

The marvelously clueful Jon Udell writes about the return of hailstorm like systems. One line caught my eye.

“Re-entering the basic facts each time perpetuates an illusion of privacy. Yet the reality, for many of us, is that these facts are public.”

Yes! “The illusion of privacy.” Very nice.

But .. four additional things too.

1. It’s very very hard to pre-fill with 100% accuracy. Even small error rates are enough to overwhelm any increase in sales that may arise from greater ease of use, particularly if the blame for those errors falls to the vendor.

2. The vendor wishes to frame the relationship with the customer as respectful to the customer. Both vendor and customer may know that such information is widely available but polite people don’t bring it up. If you do then it’s unclear if you can be trusted with the more semi-private information. The vendor that pre-fills you home phone number seems more likely to reveal your pants size, or your color preference to strangers.

3. Sales is like poker. You don’t want to reveal anything during the negotiation that your not absolutely positive is going to advance the deal toward closure. For example consider you are buying a car and it has floor mats with a stain resistant coating on them. No salesman in his right mind will tell you that unless you explicitly reveal that your worried about the carpets getting dirty. Unless he’s sure that the information will fill a need the customer has mentioned it goes mentioned. Who knows, maybe this customer is afraid of cancers caused by such coatings. Vendors are very ambivalent about revealing their hand.

4. Finally some of these forms are actually part of a quiz. The form is a means of reducing identity theft. The credit card company can use any information the vendor collects at point of sale to reduce the chance of fraud.

You have to get authorization prior to all form pre-filling; not just from the customer but from everybody who has a stake in the data. For example your going to have trouble get medical records without the care giver’s permissions as well as the patient’s permission.

Even very mundane seeming revealing of information have strong systemic barriers casual revealing.

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