After California’s zip-code-privacy ruling

The lawsuits against store chains over inquiries in check-out lines were just the start: one lawyer has sued gas station operators on the theory that it violates state law to ask drivers at the pump to key in their zip code to verify their credit cards. [Russell Jackson, earlier]


  • Hey, I have little sympathy for the companies. They were told, in no uncertain terms “do not collect and keep private data.”

    So what did they do? They collected and kept private data.

    That is sort of like me going out and robbing a bank and complaining that I am now in jail for 20 years…

    Perhaps the penalties are a bit harsh. On the other hand, without harsh penalties, what is to stop companies from flagrantly violating the law? (That is not to say collecting zip codes flagrantly violated the law).

    These companies want to get off scott free after violating the law. I have little sympathy.

  • I like the zip code verification at the pumps and would like the option of purchasing my fuel at a gas station that requires it.

    If I didn’t, I would purchase my gas somewhere else.

    So what’s the issue, Allan? The gas stations are not following a stupid law that consumers can opt out of by going to another station or paying for their gas using something else besides a credit card?

  • What individual data is collected by giving your ZIP code? It’s not like they can get your address for it. This is tinfoil hat stuff.

  • I admit that getting a zip code at the pump is not a problem for me.

    However, the law is the law. If the law is there it should be followed and I wonder how, without draconian penalties, we can motivate companies to comply.

    If your suggestion is that the law be changed, I would agree. I could also give you a number of laws I would change, too. But that is not the issue here. The issue is that California said companies cannot collect zip code data, but they did anyway. There must be a consequence for the non-compliance.

  • I don’t follow your logic. If it’s not a big deal, then why should the penalty be draconian? It seems you want to compound government stupidity by adding punishment that doesn’t “fit the crime”. If the appropriate penalty is small, then maybe the law should be ignored or erased from the books.

    I find it ironic that this discussion is going on with other blog entries that deal with the CPSIA and regulation to the point of absurdity.

  • The elected government of the state of California is wrong.
    The courts of the state of California are wrong.
    The companies doing business were wrong.
    Three wrongs make a right.

    Collectively California has a terminal case of Dunning-Kruger.
    The union should secede from California, then we would rid of Pelosi, Waxman and Charlie Sheen. Such a deal.

    Mannie, you are right and wrong. The data crunchers have shown that with just a couple of pieces of data they can triangulate your address and then your personal information, but given all that is on Google it’s tin foil hat stuff. See above.

  • I don’t believe the gas stations keep the zip code data, I believe it is a requirement of the credit card company to reduce fraud. If you would be happier if gas stations didn’t take credit cards, that is fine. I would not be happier. Also, I don’t believe the law specifically stated no zip codes are to be saved, but rather “personal identifying data” or some such.

  • If the gas station is not keeping the customer’s zip code and is just passing it on to the credit card company, then I don’t see how they’re breaking the law. The credit card company already has the zip code, since they know the cardholder’s address, so if the gas station is simply acting as a pipe to send the zip code to the credit card holder, then the zip code isn’t being revealed to anyone who doesn’t already have it.

  • Re draconian penalties: draconian penalties don’t work. Or rather, they may motivate compliance with the law in the short term but they also destroy respect for the law, which is is far more damaging in the long run. In practice the law works mostly by voluntary compliance – by citizens recognizing the value of the law and of wanting to abide by it. But if the law comes to be seen as unjust or absurd or as the tool of oppression, then the voluntary compliance evaporates and people start to ignore the law whenever they think they can get away with it.

  • “The law is the law”, except in California, where the law is generally an ass.

  • Folks, this lawsuit is missing a very key aspect of the law that gets little mention. There is a safety valve in the law that allows a company to collect the data if their contract with the credit card company requires it. All gas stations make that part of their contract to reduce fraud. It is the exchange for not having anyone actually look at the card. Similarly, companies that do vending machines (Redbox comes to mind first) are starting to have that as part of their contract. In short, the gas stations are not breaking the law.

    And for any fans of the VC, I have this to say to the lawyer in question, FRAUD!!!!!