Are multi-national companies playing fast and loose with our personal information? From personal experience, I would say yes! With all of the warnings we get regarding identity theft, why are large multi-national corporations treating their customers’ information as not worth protecting, and why are we putting up with it?
My husband and I went to town the other day and he purchased a Pepsi. I stopped drinking the stuff when I found out the acidity “approaches the level of battery acid”(1) but he still gulps it down. Anyway, after we got home I went to the Pepsi website to enter a code for the NFL bottle cap promotion. When I got to the site, I found that to enter the contest I needed a Yahoo account. No problem, I have one. Then the website asked for several items of personal information such as physical address (no P.O. boxes allowed), phone number, and birthdate. I looked at the URL of the site, and noticed that it was not secure. Not secure? The Pepsi folks wanted me to enter all sorts of personal information on an unsecured server just to enter a simple contest. I'm sorry, but with the type of information the Pepsi company was asking for, that is simply identity theft waiting to happen.
This experience prompted me to visit some other comparable websites to determine if it was just a fluke. My first venture was to the Coca Cola Rewards(2) site. This site wasn’t too bad; it only wanted my birthdate on the first page, on an unsecured server. The biggest offender was the Dr. Pepper(3) site. It wanted it all: birthdate, e-mail address, password, full name, street address (no P.O. boxes allowed), home phone number, and gender, all on an unsecured server.
No wonder there are so many cases of identity theft. All the identity theft protection in the world will not help if you choose to comply with these companies’ pathetic consumer safety standards and display all of your personal information on unsecured sites. It doesn’t take much for a company to use secure technology such as an SSL certificate for its website to ensure its customer’s information is in a secure environment, and with the amount of money these companies are making it seems absurd that this technology is not used. Any company that does not take measures to secure its customers’ personal information has absolutely no regard for their individual privacy or security, and does not deserve my business.
I remember back when I was going to school in the late 50s and early 60s. My parents trusted the larger corporations to have a superior product. They were viewed as being just a tad more trustworthy than the smaller, relatively unknown companies. Pretty naive, but it was a simpler time. Not so today. The Pepsi and Dr. Pepper websites are glaring examples of how some multi-national corporations could care less about the people they serve. The invasive amount of personal information these companies want simply to play a game, and the cavalier way they treat people’s personal information is outrageous. They have absolutely no regard for individual privacy, not to mention security. As my husband so aptly put it, “it’s a worldwide loose happening.”
I for one will not comply. I will not play their games, and will not buy their products. This may sound a bit over-the-top, but why should I contribute to a company who has proven to not care one iota about my privacy? It is my responsibility to make sure that my personal information is kept private. It is a responsible company’s duty to make sure that if it wants to keep me as a customer it will provide the tools necessary to make sure that using that company’s website will not place me in danger of identity theft. This is simply moral responsibility.
If a company does not have the moral responsibility to protect me while at its site, I will make sure that I do not support that company. They can sell their battery acid soft drinks to someone else who doesn’t care about revealing sensitive personal information online, making it easy pickings for the world’s identity thieves. It is up to us as responsible consumers to be aware of these abhorrent practices so that we can protect ourselves. As it stands, if left up to these multi-nationals we will be looking for our next bottle cap code from the bottom of a dumpster because an identity thief has cleaned out our bank accounts. I guess my husband will just have to do without his Pepsi until the Pepsi Cola company mends its ways and places its customers’ financial welfare above corporate greed. Yeah, right. I guess my dear hubby is SOL.
Copyright 2007, Barbara H. Peterson