FBI Mines Grocery Store Data to Find Terrorists
In 2005 and 2006 FBI agents mined through data collected by San Francisco-area grocery stores in order to look for people who purchased Middle Eastern foods. This program was short-lived because the FBI realized that it was ridiculous to profile people according to the food that they ate. Still, the information was handed over because the grocery store and/or credit card companies had monitored consumer purchasing behavior.
FDEA Subpoenas Purchase Records of Drug Dealer
Washington Post reported in 1998 that Smith's Food and Drug Centers in Arizona had released information to the Drug Enforcement Administration on several occasions. In one example, it was information pertaining to people who purchased large amounts of plastic bags, as this could be an indicator of a drug dealer. Special Agent James Molesa explained that investigators can use the files to establish the whereabouts of a suspect and find clues about his behavior. He also stated that this information, coupled with other gathered information, is enough to create evidence.
Using Consumer Data In Personal Injury and Family Law Court Cases
A man sued Von supermarket after slipping on yogurt in a Safeway and shattering his kneecap making him unable to work. During settlement negotiations, the mediator for the case revealed that Von’s reviewed the man’s grocery store purchase records to establish that he was an alcoholic and if the case went to court, they were prepared to use this against him. The plaintiff settled because of this.
In another court case, one ex-spouse used another ex-spouse’s purchasing records to make the case that they could afford a higher alimony payment. This was based off of all of the fine wine purchases.
Firefighter Falsely Accused of Arson Based on Grocery Records
In 2004, firefighter Phillip Scott Lyons was falsely accused of arson when his grocery store records indicated he had purchased the same fire starter product used to set fire to his home. This arrest was made despite Lt. Lyons putting the fire out himself and calling 911. His arrest took place two and a half weeks later after an investigation turned up some questionable things found around his home on top of his Safeway loyalty card records which showed the fire starter purchase he made one month earlier. He was acquitted five months later when the man responsible came forward and confessed.
While these are just a few examples of how consumer data can be used against you, and in most of these cases using someone’s consumer data was in an effort to bring them to justice, it does add some hesitancy in the collection of consumer data. If someone can subpoena grocery store data in order to raise their ex-husband’s alimony, or if the FBi can get their hands on how much cheese you purchased over the last two years, then who is to say healthcare companies can’t get their hands on the non-nutritional foods and cigarettes you may be purchasing? Perhaps they will then start using this information to raise your premium. Where does it all stop?