Costco Tracking – Health Saver or Privacy Invasion?


Here is an interesting side note to the recent recall of canned food manufactured by Castleberry’s. As I wrote earlier this week, we recently received a letter indicating we had purchased a batch of recalled Cattle Drive Chili. The mailing was from Costco. The letter, however, was on Cattle Drive letterhead. The mailing was addressed to me personally, the letter to “Valued Costco Member”. Obviously every time any of us shop at Costco and have to give them our membership card, detailed records of our purchases are being permanently recorded. I can’t say that this surprised me, but it did make me pause to think it over.

There is no way to make purchases at Costco without registering those purchases to your Costco membership. At most other stores, if you want to you can purchase with cash and remain anonymous. Although I usually use a check or debit card and don’t worry about privacy issues, I do wonder if this is a kind of slippery slope. Even if you shop at a store with no membership requirements or “rewards” programs, if you pay by check, credit or debit card, certain information is probably being stored. In Costco’s case, depending on what Costco does with this information, it might be a little disturbing. On the other hand, as the recent letter warning us about our chili purchase proved, there are positive uses the collected information can be put to.

I am about as non-paranoid about this stuff as a person can get. I think this is because I lead what I perceive to be a quite boring, normal, life. Any information collected about my buying habits is certainly not going to make anyone rich or embarrass me. I think this attitude is why I don’t find myself opposed to Britain’s use of cameras on every corner of London to reduce the risk of crime and terrorism. I have also not lost much sleep over the issue of RFID chips being in many of the items we purchase. Is this the right attitude to have? Or, am I neglecting my civic duty to question how data about our everyday lives is being collected and used?

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Will Sig

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