Monday, 1 August 2011

Restaurant: a super-spy!

Did you get used to the idea of governments spying your activites? I think most of us are aware that there is no such thing as privacy of our data on- and offline and that authorites collect and record our information whenever they can. It takes it to a further level, however, when private business start doing the same thing. We all have heard about our search results on being adjusted to our past search history, we know that suggests us books to buy based on our purchase history. However, does anyone ever wonder how come a waiter in a restaurant remembers what we ordered months ago when we visited them last? Is it really just his faboulous memory that serves him so well?

It turns out that certain restaurants are building databases of their customers that are so extent as to cover not only special wishes (allergies, birthdays, dislike and likes) but also past history of orders. This means that when you show up the next time your favorite drink might be waiting on a table for you the moment you sit down. Also, you could be receiving newsletters from them that are tailored to what you like/dislike to eat or drink. This goes even further than just collecting data on steady customers: apparently when you visit such a restaurant for the first time they'd conduct a google search on you trying to find out who you are and what to expect... 

I'm all for great, tailored-fit service, but at the same time I find this practice making me uncomfortable. Mostly, since I don't want to be that predictable that a waiter would know what I'd order before I knew it myself! Moreover, the chef of the restaurant who explains how they use these techniques claims that it's great for the business and for his customers, but admits that most of the customers don't even suspect that their data had been collected and stored for further processing by the restaurant. This seems to me to be a clear breach of the privacy of our personal data rules but while regulators focus on ensuring and enforcing data protection online, who would even suspect such 'innocent' enterprises like restaurants to start doing the same and needing regulation?

Clear example of an Australian restaurant conducting such data collection is described in : "Clever or creepy? Restaurant's web of data" in The Age.

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