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Businesses Are Losing the Right to Ask Customers for Zip Codes? Yes, But It Doesn’t Matter.

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By Fausto Mendez

    It’s expected that businesses make some kind of effort to obtain the personal info - including phone and address - of their customers. That’s why I was surprised to hear that it’s becoming illegal for businesses to ask for customer zip codes in the US. It was even more surprising to me when I learned that this has been illegal in California since 2011.

    Now that I think about it, a business hasn’t asked me for my zip code since my college days. That’s because California considers zip codes to be a critical piece of identifying information, and with just your zip code, they can accurately guess your home address and phone number. Whether you like it or not, it seems that as California goes, so does the rest of the nation. Massachusetts is the next state that’s outlawed the collection of zip codes during customer transactions, and there’s no reason to assume this trend will reverse itself anytime soon. Fortunately for marketers (and unfortunately for consumers), this isn’t a big deal. Consumer information is more available than ever.

    The rise of online marketing and social-media marketing makes these laws irrelevant. Let’s put it this way: if a marketer gains access to your Facebook profile, they probably have a lot more on file than just your zip code, phone number and home address. And by connecting with you on Facebook, they have a much faster and more convenient way of communicating with you than annoying junk mail or telemarketers. 

    As a result, these laws are generally perceived as good for the public, but they won’t protect consumers’ info from prying eyes - at least not in this day and age. The new laws may force marketers to rely on the online world even more, and in the digital realm, it’s much easier to get the same info and a lot more. In the end, these laws only coerce businesses to rely on easier and more effective web-based methods. Though that’s great for the marketing industry, consumers are not receiving any effective protection by the passage of these laws

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(Source: Business Insider)

  • 8 April 2013

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