A Penny Saved, a Lifestyle Learned? The California and Connecticut Approaches to Supermarket Privacy

June 16, 2012

It is becoming increasingly difficult to find a grocery store where consumers can take advantage of special discounts without first handing over a frequent shopper card for scanning. While many may consider this grocery store technology a new form of coupon clipping, few stop to consider the privacy implications. Grocery store technology, like technology in other areas, allows for the consolidation and dissemination of personal information in ways never before possible. As grocery stores install ever more sophisticated methods to track what we buy, what we are willing to pay, and which grocery aisles are our favorites, additional state privacy protections modeled after the California Supermarket Club Card Disclosure Act of 1999 and the Connecticut Consumer Discount Cards law are necessary.
This article investigates privacy implications stemming specifically from the use of discount shopping cards in the supermarket industry. The first part of this article will describe shopper card technology. The second part will investigate consumers’ current rights to privacy, both from disclosure to the government and from sale of personal information to private third parties. The third part will explore the privacy protections offered by the California and Connecticut Acts and the implications of those laws for supermarket shoppers across the country. This article will conclude by discussing whether the California and Connecticut Acts could serve as models for protecting consumers’ privacy in other states.