Apparently the government are planning to use supermarket loyalty card data to spy on the purchasing habits of members of the public and send them warning letters if they appear to be violating guidelines on healthy eating and drinking. Obviously this is something that is easy to circumvent simply by ceasing to use the loyalty card, and in any case is likely, dependent on your shopping patterns, to produce skewed data. It’s entirely credible that someone might buy all their fruit and veg for cash in markets, and just go to Tesco to stock up on drink and non-perishable items, in which case they would end up with a black mark.
As the owner of a Tesco Clubcard, I have to say they have never tried to tempt me with offers on things I just wouldn’t buy, with the exception of the occasional coupon for alcohol-free lager. They sometimes even give me 50p off “any beer, lager or cider”. If they did start bombarding me with coupons for fruit and veg, obviously I’d just junk the card.
But the disturbing thing about this story is that government should even think it acceptable. It opens up an Overton window by suggesting that the idea is even under consideration. Despite their weasel words in favour of liberty, it seems that governments of all political persuasions are doing their best to track more and more of our activities, by aiming to monitor our shopping habits, our car journeys and our electronic communications.
And how long before the “voluntary” loyalty card monitoring becomes compulsory, in all shops, and the personal alcohol ration card is introduced?