Judy Cates off-target on phone tracking case

The Madison County Record Nov. 5, 2011, 6:53am

You may have noticed that many supermarkets print coupons on the back of their cash register receipts.

You also may have noticed that most of the coupons on your receipt are for products similar to the ones that you just purchased. They may be different brands or different sizes or quantities, but they're definitely things that you customarily buy -- or items associated with those things.

This is called targeting. The computer that runs the register keeps track of all the inventory in the store, allowing the manager to maintain and replenish stock as efficiently as possible. It also takes note of your purchases and customizes the available coupons to fit your shopping patterns.

A small minority of people don't like this. They see it as an invasion of privacy.

"Why is the Shop-A-Doodle tracking my purchases?" they ask. "What business is it of theirs if I prefer Jif to Peter Pan? Who are they going to sell this information to? Do I want the whole world to know that I buy generic toilet tissue?"

Most people, on the other hand, appreciate this small, but helpful customer service.

Providing your customers with what they want is the secret to business success.

This is something that Apple Computers has always excelled at, which is why its new iPhone4S is flying off the shelf.

The new phone incorporates location tracking features that the company developed and tested on earlier phones, features that are popular with the great majority of consumers.

Plaintiffs attorney Judy Cates, however, managed to dig up one of the privacy-demanding minority.

Ever eager to fan a fear and bag a buck, would-be judge Cates has filed suit against Apple, charging that it violated the privacy rights of the owners of earlier phones, from which the company derived data to perfect the new features.

Note to Cates: Nobody's interested in knowing your client's movements, but we will be tracking this case.

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