No privacy at the Apple Store

By Steve Outing

I did a little holiday shopping at the local (Boulder) Apple Store tonight, and was surprised when it came to getting the receipt for my purchase. The sales guy offered to e-mail me my receipt. That’s great, actually, because paper receipts get lost, whereas if I need to take back my purchase in the days ahead, I’ll be able to easily find my receipt in my Gmail archive. I wish more stores would get with the program and offer this.

But that wasn’t what surprised me. No, it was the fact that by doing nothing more than swiping my Mastercard, the sales rep was able to pull up my e-mail address. (Well, actually, it was — oddly — my daughter’s e-mail. How that got connected to my credit card account I do not understand. For most people, Apple will probably pull up the correct address.) And no, the credit card wasn’t an Apple-branded Mastercard.

So that means that Apple is able to find information about us simply by swiping a credit card. While I like the convenience of this, I nevertheless feel like I’ve lost some privacy. Shouldn’t I be the one to decide if Apple gets my e-mail address?

Again, if I’d handed the guy an Apple credit card, that’s one thing; I’d expect them to have my Apple account information. But a non-affiliated credit card gets Apple my data? That makes me uncomfortable. What do you think?

UPDATE: Ah, yes, jumped the gun … blogged before thinking this through. As commenters noted, Apple simply recognized the credit card number from previous purchases and pulled the e-mail address from its own database, most likely. Perhaps the lesson is that consumers can have knee-jerk reactions to these sorts of things, where they perceive a privacy invasion. :)

Author: Steve Outing Steve Outing is a Boulder, Colorado-based media futurist, digital-news innovator, consultant, journalist, and educator. ... Need assistance with media-company future strategy? Get in touch with Steve!

10 Responses to "No privacy at the Apple Store"

  1. Chris
    Chris 10 years ago .Reply

    I think the e-mail address came from information you supplied when you made a previous purchase from Apple or registered a product. They aren’t able to arbitrarily divine people’s e-mail addresses from their credit card numbers.

  2. Chris
    Chris 10 years ago .Reply

    I think the e-mail address came from information you supplied when you made a previous purchase from Apple or registered a product. They aren't able to arbitrarily divine people's e-mail addresses from their credit card numbers.

  3. Mark Potts
    Mark Potts 10 years ago .Reply

    Steve:
    I assume you and your family already have some sort of relationship with Apple based on that credit card–probably through the iTunes store. If your daughter’s buying music through the store using your credit card, they’d have her address on file. Otherwise, none of my credit card companies even know my e-mail address. I think Apple’s ability to e-mail me a receipt from the Apple Store–I did it the other day, in fact–is pretty cool. But I’m sure it works because I’ve got a pre-existing Apple account that’s tied to that credit card.

  4. Mark Potts
    Mark Potts 10 years ago .Reply

    Steve: I assume you and your family already have some sort of relationship with Apple based on that credit card–probably through the iTunes store. If your daughter's buying music through the store using your credit card, they'd have her address on file. Otherwise, none of my credit card companies even know my e-mail address. I think Apple's ability to e-mail me a receipt from the Apple Store–I did it the other day, in fact–is pretty cool. But I'm sure it works because I've got a pre-existing Apple account that's tied to that credit card.

  5. Derek Scruggs
    Derek Scruggs 10 years ago .Reply

    Has your daughter ever bought there before? I’m pretty sure this data is impossible to get from Visa/MC. More likely, Apple tapped into a corporate CRM system that had seen both that credit card and email address before.

  6. Derek Scruggs
    Derek Scruggs 10 years ago .Reply

    Has your daughter ever bought there before? I'm pretty sure this data is impossible to get from Visa/MC. More likely, Apple tapped into a corporate CRM system that had seen both that credit card and email address before.

  7. Ben
    Ben 10 years ago .Reply

    Has your credit card been used at the Apple store before? They could have saved your email address then and still have it on file. Although, it was your daughters email address, maybe she used your card to purchase a 17” MacBook Pro? :)

    I’d be interested in knowing if Apple could go out and find your email address from your credit card number, though I find it unlikely.

  8. Ben
    Ben 10 years ago .Reply

    Has your credit card been used at the Apple store before? They could have saved your email address then and still have it on file. Although, it was your daughters email address, maybe she used your card to purchase a 17'' MacBook Pro? :) I'd be interested in knowing if Apple could go out and find your email address from your credit card number, though I find it unlikely.

  9. Christopher Ryan
    Christopher Ryan 10 years ago .Reply

    I work with credit card transactions all the time, and have never heard of this information being available — at least not through the normal channels. It’s entirely possible that some third-party company buys transaction data from merchants and re-sells it in aggregate form. But that would be an identity thief’s dream-come-true, so I suspect that very few merchants — and certainly not the credit card companies — would participate in such a thing.

  10. Christopher Ryan
    Christopher Ryan 10 years ago .Reply

    I work with credit card transactions all the time, and have never heard of this information being available — at least not through the normal channels. It's entirely possible that some third-party company buys transaction data from merchants and re-sells it in aggregate form. But that would be an identity thief's dream-come-true, so I suspect that very few merchants — and certainly not the credit card companies — would participate in such a thing.

Leave your comment