NRC Handelsblad, 3 January 2015, 'It's allowed if it's yours'
“After the necessary start-up problems, the new Bonus card complies with privacy legislation. But there are still plenty of snags.
Do you often buy frozen frikadels? Then you probably have a low income. A net of oranges? That indicates a two-person household. And do you drink coffee creamer? Fat chance you are retired. These correlations are easy to establish based on CBS figures.
Measuring purchasing behaviour yields much more data. At Albert Heijn, a team of analysts is constantly tinkering with the algorithms needed for this. These complex mathematical models are run on the customer's purchase data to arrive at personalised offers.
It was these personal offers that raised the ire of the Dutch Data Protection Authority (CBP) back in 1998. At the time, the privacy watchdog called the introduction of the very first Bonus card a "worrying development". The CBP fell particularly over the limited freedom of choice for customers. They had to register personally to get discounts. To meet the criticism, Albert Heijn introduced the anonymous Bonus card.
A year after the introduction of the new card, not everyone seems convinced yet. Vincent Böhre of Privacy First: "Albert Heijn is actually forcing people to register the Bonus card. If you don't, you are not entitled to extra discounts on personal offers. In doing so, Albert Heijn discriminates between customers who do and do not value their privacy."
CBP chairman Jacob Kohnstamm signals a downside to the massive use of big data in marketing. In a recent speech, he warned of controlling computer systems that start thinking for the customer. Kohnstamm exhorts caution: "Full individual fulfilment and development is an illusion if, based on my profile, many choices are already made before me instead of by me.''
Source: NRC Handelsblad, Saturday 3 January 2015, Economics, p. 30. Also published in part at http://www.nrcq.nl/2015/01/03/waarom-albert-heijn-met-de-bonuskaart-vijftien-jaar-achterloopt.