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The Scoop - Give privacy a kiss goodbye
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My mom returned this week from a trip to the untamed frontier of Alaska where pictures show her engulfed by a toboggan and heavy coat. I don't know why you'd want to leave cozy summer weather to see a bunch of glaciers, but mom assures me it was mountains of fun.

In hopes of having an intelligent conversation with her about Alaska, I made the mistake of googling it to get some basic facts. Now every time I pick up my phone I'm bombarded by ads about visiting Alaska. I wish there was some place I could click to indicate I'm in no way interested in visiting Alaska, but there's not.

When it comes to what we do online, our privacy has vanished. When I went to purchase a car last year, the dealer knew how many times I had visited his website, and which vehicles I looked at while I was there, as soon as he entered my name in the computer.
The grocery store sends me coupons for items I might like to try based on my purchases of other items. YouTube recommends music I might like to listen to based on songs I've already heard.

If all this sounds a little creepy, the Wall Street Journal published an article this week by Scott McCartney discussing exactly how far companies should go in personalizing their service. It turns out some companies have an encyclopedia of knowledge about their customers, but they don't know how much to use it.

For example, would you like to be on an airplane and have the flight attendant come up and wish you happy birthday? Is this too much information for a stranger to know?

If that's too much, would you like for flight attendants to call you by name or know your drink order if you're a frequent flier? These are questions companies are asking as they work to use the data  they have without offending.

Airlines, like many other companies, are trying to determine when personalized interactions could be considered invasive amid growing concerns about how companies like Facebook are using our personal information.

"There’s a point where you don’t want to make people feel like, ‘Gee they know everything about me and they’re tracking everything I do,’” United Airlines representative John Slater told the Wall Street Journal.

In this day when people post their life on Facebook and check in online every place they visit, it's hard to see how we have much privacy left. We even take pictures of what we eat for breakfast.

From my perspective, I'm glad to get personalized service and I'm thrilled if I don't have to answer a bunch of pesky questions to get it. A flight attendant can come up and wish me happy birthday anytime, especially if they bring a free brownie with them.

I'm willing to sacrifice a little privacy for more convenience.

Standard editor James Clark can be reached at 473-2191.