Find the latest episode of "The Uncertain Hour" here. Listen

No go on zip codes

Jennifer Collins Feb 11, 2011
HTML EMBED:
COPY

No go on zip codes

Jennifer Collins Feb 11, 2011
HTML EMBED:
COPY

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: Remember back when buying something with a credit card didn’t mean a game of 20 questions? Debit or credit? Cash back? Would you like a receipt? Do you have an email address? Can I please have your zip code?

If you live in California, that last one is officially off the list. The State Supreme Court here ruled yesterday that your zip code is nobody’s business. Marketplace’s Jennifer Collins reports.


Jennifer Collins: Your name and zip code are a valuable little combination.

Eli Portnoy: It’s worth millions to the retail community, however they get it.

Eli Portnoy is a marketing consultant. Retailers can use customers’ names and zip codes to track down their addresses; those address might show if there’s a big market for a store in any particular neighborhood, and whether the merchant might want to build its next store in that neighborhood.

Portnoy: And then it’s a tool to potentially sell to other people who want to know about that customer as well.

According to the ruling, stores in California can’t collect zip codes or use them to track other information. It’s still OK for online retailers to know your zip; after all, they need to know where to send those four-inch heels you just bought.

But Madison Riley of Kurt Salmon Associates says collecting zip codes at the check-out is almost becoming quaint.

Madison Riley: It’s declining in value. We’re moving into an era where the young generation of our country, they’re providing their personal data on a regular basis.

But even if this ruling is a little behind the times, Eli Portnoy says it may have implications beyond California.

Portnoy: I think that this is an opening of the door to greater and greater privacy protection for consumers in transactions.

After all, these days companies can pinpoint your location through your cell phone. And where you are right now could be way more valuable than knowing where you live.

I’m Jennifer Collins for Marketplace.

Marketplace is on a mission.

We believe Main Street matters as much as Wall Street, economic news is made relevant and real through human stories, and a touch of humor helps enliven topics you might typically find…well, dull.

Through the signature style that only Marketplace can deliver, we’re on a mission to raise the economic intelligence of the country—but we don’t do it alone. We count on listeners and readers like you to keep this public service free and accessible to all. Will you become a partner in our mission today?

Your donation is critical to the future of public service journalism. Support our work today – for as little as $5 – and help us keep making people smarter.