Wednesday, April 18, 2007

My right to privacy

I am extremely pissed off and I have every reason to be. Left, right and center, companies are invading my privacy. I get irritating SMSs from cell provider, emails and phone calls from banks for everything ranging from low interest rate loans to lifetime free credit cards. I dont even want to talk about my poor email inbox, which is perpetually overflowing with spam. I have been reduced to object who can be bombarded with advertising crap against his will, even in the privacy of his home. Personal information can be blatantly demanded from me, as a matter of right.

This post is mainly about my gripe with a big retail chain in the neighbourhood, but no post about this unwanted soliciting can be complete without a mention of my cell provider. I got an SMS on V-Day, informing me that should I need some tips to patao girls, I just need to call on xxx number. Call charges of Rs6/min. Cool, they are so concerned about my love life. Another priceless example of their mindless stupidity was the afternoon after India got thrashed by Sri Lanka and put out of their WC misery. The SMS, as thoughtful as ever politely asked the reader if they were unable to find the result of yesterday's match ? Perhaps they were sleeping it suggested. So have no fear, coz we are here, just send an SMS to this number and we will tell you the complete scorecard.

This SMS came around 3pm in the afternoon, by when probably India's disgraceful defeat would have been discussed in the Parliament. Of course, charges of Rs6/SMS applied. Only the cost of my cell phone kept me from hurling to the other end of the room. I have tried calling the provider and asking them if they knew that something called the DND registry existed. But I have been told that DND is only for phone calls, we are still free to bug you with SMSs.

What literally broke the camel's back was the experience had a couple of days ago at a big retail store, owned by a BIG Indian company, which sells fruits and vegetables. The store had newly opened close to home and a friend and I decided to check it out if it offered anything better than the friendly neighbourhood sabziwala. Apart from the lack of choices, low prices and a 30 min line, it offered some pretty rude and intrusive staff. Like all big chains, this store too had a system of collecting 'points' which could later be redeemed. Since this was very close to home, I decided to get the free card made and got down to filling up the form. One page of the form had the 'mandatory' information. Stuff like name, address. It also asked for date of birth and sex, which I think were unwarranted. My email and phone number ? Dont have either!

The next page proclaimed that the information there was to 'know me better'. Aha! It didnt say it was mandatory, so I was pretty much within my rights to refuse to cough up the info; something which I did. After all, what the hell did that company want my PAN number for ? Why did they want to know in which income bracket did I lie ? Why was my profession important to them ? Did they intend to discriminate against me on the basis of that ? I filled up the mandatory section and handed it over. The person at the counter asked me to fill up the remaining portion too. I protested, saying that it was not mandatory. Why do you need my PAN number anyway ? Its not like they were issuing some ID card and needed government identification.

That person told me that the company was going to launch some financial services soon, and needed the PAN number for that. The question which immediately comes to mind is why ? Will the government allow them to launch it only when a particular number of taxpayers have given them a vote of confidence ? What do the services have to do with the retail chain's shopping card anyway ? The chap refused to listen to my point of view, assuring me that they were not a front for the IT dept and anyway, everyone had filled up that section of the form, so why was I being so paranoid.

He was correct on the last count, everyone had filled that section up, like sheep in a herd. Whether the information was correct or not is a different issue, but people had dutifully done the needful. Have we become so used to random people asking us for personal information and giving it up without a thought ? Have we started thinking that its for our own good (the store chap seemed to think so) ? Do I need to cut off myself from the outside world in order to have some semblance of privacy ?


Blogger CaliguliminiX said...

I can understand you. In this country though, on one side you have people fighting to save trees and try to make minimum use of paper. But I wonder how the f*** they can do it, when I get about a kilo of spam PAPER mail everyday!!! And the mistake I did was to give my address when I was buying a product online which I can't really avoid. I've been very careful with giving out phone numbers, but some of my friends who weren't get spam sms everyday and the worst part is that sms is not free here in the regular kind of plans that we have, so they PAY for spam!

5:43 PM  
Blogger Atish said...

bang on target dude... and yeah u fwded me the V day one . that was in a totally different league altogether :D
do one thing .. get a 3310 and then u CAN hurl ur fone the next time u get one such sms :D

6:06 AM  
Blogger animaha said...

If you did not want to divulge any information they were asking - you were free NOT to fill up the form.

3:12 AM  
Blogger anonymous coward said...


i didnt fill up. i tried to reason with that guy, but he didnt seem to understand my POV. guess its the chain's loss as they failed to rope in a customer@

10:57 AM  

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