Wednesday, January 14, 2004 - The Progress & Freedom Foundation Blog

Digging into Privacy

The January 9 edition of Business Week magazine is jam-packed, featuring a cover on Rupert Murdoch and several articles on VoIP. My guess is that most of the digerati missed the following tidbit from a story on the revitalization of the home improvement chain, Home Depot.

In the past couple of years, Home Depot has dropped $40 million on security cameras to reduce what Tomé calls "shrink" -- retailspeak for shoplifting and the otherwise unexplained disappearance of merchandise.

"We've lowered our shrink levels, but we know we're still not best in class," she says. (How good are the cameras? A Home Depot employee following Tomé notes that when detectives in Florida discovered a murder victim had been buried with a Home Depot shovel found near the grave, they gave the price-tag bar code to Home Depot officials, who tracked the shovel to the store that sold it, determined the time of purchase from sales records, and then gave the security tapes to detectives -- who immediately spotted their suspect.)

My take: Private firms should protect their property including through surveillance, data collection and other techniques that drive some self-styled privacy advocates crazy. I'm sure we are not too far removed from claims that Home Depot is subsidizing Big Brother's black helicopters to the tune of $40 million. Nonsense. Most importantly, it is incumbent upon consumers, investors and employees alike to understand that information may be collected many places outside of the home. We should expect, nay, even celebrate private sector investments that improve the quality and quantity of information.

posted by @ 11:54 AM | General