Saturday, June 16, 2007

Privacy Guard -- Not so private

I've been a member of Privacy Guard for longer than I can remember. While some may argue that the $100-200 year fee is too much, what is your privacy and identity worth to you? The biggest value to me has been to track my credit score and do "what if" simulations to see how I can financially better myself.

Over the past several months Privacy Guard has really started to irritate me. Every month or so I'll get something that appears to be a check from Privacy Guard issued to me for some amount, typically $10-20. Upon reading the fine print you'll see that by signing and cashing the check you automatically sign yourself up for an additional year of Privacy Guard service. So instead of paying $199.99 willingly for an additional year of service, you cash the check thinking (stupidly) that it is $10 free, when it actually just gets you $10 off your service.

This is not behavior I would expect from a company that is supposedly dedicated to protecting the privacy and security of one's identity.

Just when I thought things couldn't get any more ridiculous, I get another "check" for $10 with an enclosed "2007 Opinion Poll". This poll blatantly says:

"You are being asked to participate in this opinion poll. Won't you please take a moment to share your opinions? A few minutes of your time WILL ASSIST IN PROVIDING SERVICES THAT MEET YOUR NEEDS AND DESIRES" (emphasis added)

OK, seriously, what gives? Privacy Guard is coming right out and saying that they are going to sell your information.

Some sample poll questions:

  • How often do you shop online?
  • How do you usually purchase flowers?
  • Where do you purchase your music?
  • What time of year do you prefer to vacation?
  • What's the MOST you would pay for a hotel room?
  • How often do you fly?
  • Do you purchase items from airport gift shops?
  • Which of the following activities do you enjoy?
  • Which cuisines do you enjoy?
  • How much do you pay for a bottle of wine?
  • About how many hours of television do you watch each day?
  • What is the model year of your car?
  • About how many miles do you put on your car each year?
  • Do you own your home or rent?
  • Have you ever hired a housekeeper?
  • Do you have a cell phone?
  • Do you have a computer?
  • How many pets do you have?
  • Do you play golf?
  • Which area of the country do you consider most desirable for retirement?
This makes me sick. Privacy Guard is not only obviously selling their customer's data, but is also gathering further personal information to allow the people buying my information to target their spam emails, snail mail and phone calls for things I am specifically interested in.

I am officially canceling Privacy Guard today and will be sending a hand written letter to them describing my disgust. I advise others to do the same. That is, of course, if you value the security of your identity. If not, by all means fill this out. Heck, while you are at it, attach a piece of paper with your Mother's maiden name, name of your first pet, year of High School and College Graduation and City in which you were born.