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Attention Shoppers: Privacy and Loyalty Cards

Apr 01, 20034 mins

The Bay area computer programmer, dismayed by privacy's eroding standards, has integrated privacy into everything he does. Everything.

Logan Roots doesn’t just preach privacy, he lives it. The Bay area computer programmer, dismayed by privacy’s eroding standards, has integrated privacy into everything he does. Everything. When he was at a medical clinic recently for a routine procedure, a clinician started asking personal questions. Roots demanded to know how the information would be used before he let the clinic treat him. “They buckled,” he says giddily. “They gave up asking me if I was married and all that. It’s not that privacy is the complete binding up of information. Privacy is the freedom to selectively reveal one’s self.” And, apparently, to run grocery store card schemes….

CSO: You might be the one guy on the planet who reads the Windows license all the way through before installing the operating system.

Logan Roots: I had to upgrade Windows for work recently, and I requested another laptop from the company because of the new license. Have you read it? That license is outrageous! I don’t want that thing on my computer.

So you read every contract you come across?


Do people in line behind you at stores appreciate that?

People in line behind me hate me. Just the other day I was picking up a prescription and was reading the contract that came with it, which said the pharmacy could use my personal information. I said, “I don’t agree to this.” They were shocked. They said no one had ever read it.

And the people behind you?


Who else have you annoyed with your privacy lifestyle?

I worked at a company that was getting bought out, and it discovered that I had never signed one of those basic employee agreements. In order to complete the buy-out, my company needed the agreement. Some person then showed up with a 25-page document and asked me to sign it. I said I’d look at it, figuring I’d take it home to my wife, who’s a lawyer. That person came back a half-hour later asking if I was done yet. He said, “Just sign it. No one ever reads it.” Of course it was a draconian document that robbed me of all my privacy.

Did you sign?

I signed it, but I had a strategy. I made it clear to management I was signing under duress, that I felt my job was on the line if I didn’t sign it. And I made sure I had witnesses.

So you’re serious about protecting your privacy?

I pay in cash and use false names for as many goods and services as possible. I’m even in a local pool of people who swap [grocery store] club cards. We get the discounts but bamboozle the data analysis. For the past few months I’ve been using the card of a person who died two years ago. I’m almost sad it’s time to switch cards again. I love the dead thing so much.

Just how concerned should we be about this network of club-card-swapping bamboozlers?

We try to outdo each other when applying for cards by inventing names that are as phonetically embarrassing as possible, so the cashier says, “Have a nice day Mr. …uh.” It’s kind of sad and beautiful at the same time when you see the recognition in the clerk’s face that the name is a joke. I’d say the swapping program is a success.

You’ve really thought about this.

I’ve been thinking about this since I read an article that said anonymous moneyin other words, cashmight disappear. I thought if that ever happens, I’ll just start money swaps. It’ll be a quick laundering scheme.

Have you ever invaded someone’s privacy?

I don’t think so. Not even my wife’s. I’m the most technical person in my house. I have the power to examine any data on any computer in my house. But I never would. Seriously. I genuinely believe people need their own space. I try to live that way.