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Following a supreme court ruling last week, Massachusetts has become the second state to ban stores from asking for your ZIP code at checkout. The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts has declared that a ZIP code amounts to "personal identification information," and that the practice violates the state's privacy laws, NBC news reports. The decision followed a complaint brought against Michaels stores by a customer who said she received marketing materials from the craft store chain after employees asked her to provide her ZIP code during purchases.
NBC explains: "When you swipe a credit card at the cash register, the merchant receives your name, card number and expiration date, but little else... Give the store your ZIP code, however, and you're providing a valuable piece of the puzzle."
The problem is that when paired with your name, your ZIP code apparently gives retailers enough information to access other personal information, like your address and telephone number. Stores can—and do—use that info to send you unsolicited marketing materials. They also have a nasty habit of selling your profile to data brokers.
There are some legitimate reasons for retailers to ask for your ZIP code, most of them for your own protection. American Express has a policy of requiring customers to punch in their ZIP code at certain stores for security purposes, as do many gas stations. NBC says that in these cases, the information is not kept by the merchant and not used for marketing.
When a cashier asks you to provide your zip at check out, however, they are collecting information for the retailer and you should feel free to just say "no." Unless, of course, you actually enjoy receiving that bi-weekly Blinds-to-Go catalog, in which case, share away.
· Should You Tell Stores Your ZIP Code? Privacy Advocates Say No [NBC]
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