“Zip Code Cases” and why they are important
Numerous class actions have been filed against retailers concerning improper data collection during checkout. These so-called “zip code cases” raise important privacy issues, and we will continue to push ahead with them. Throughout America and Massachusetts, businesses collect an unprecedented volume of data about consumers and sometimes they do so unlawfully. Over twenty years ago, the Massachusetts legislature wanted consumers to have privacy and security when they use credit cards, and therefore limited what information merchants can collect. The implications of excessive data collection are for more troubling in this new era of “big data.” Today, the average consumer has little to no understanding of how their personal information is collected, scrutinized, cross-referenced, and monetized. According to a FTC report (pdf) issued in May, 2014 “data brokers collect consumer data from numerous sources, largely without consumers’ knowledge.” Information harvested by retailers during credit card transactions is digital gold to data brokers.
Collecting ZIP codes at checkout is generally illegal in Massachusetts
A large number of retailers have violated and continue to violate Massachusetts law by collecting ZIP codes from consumers who pay by credit card. When retailers go to data brokers such as Acxiom, Datalogix, CoreLogic, Trillium, or Pitney Bowes, they can learn their customers’ mailing addresses and inundate them with unwanted junk mail.
The “Massachusetts Consumer Privacy In Commercial Transactions Statute,” or “Section 105(a)”:
“Section 105. (a) No person, firm, partnership, corporation or other business entity that accepts a credit card for a business transaction shall write, cause to be written or require that a credit card holder write personal identification information, not required by the credit card issuer, on the credit card transaction form.” Continue reading