What Stays in Vegas: The World of Personal Data—Lifeblood of Big Business—and the End of Privacy as We Know It
In What Stays in Vegas, journalist Adam Tanner exposes the greatest threat to privacy today. It’s not the NSA, but good-old American companies. Internet giants, leading retailers and other firms are gathering data behind the scenes with little oversight from anyone. “This is the information age, and information is power!” screamed DocuSearch, “America’s Premier Resource for Private Investigator Searches & Lookups” in 1996—and they were right.
In Las Vegas, no company knows this mantra better than Caesars Entertainment. Despite the fact that its Vegas casinos are decades old and can’t boast their rivals’ singing gondoliers or fountains exploding in a choreographed dance, many thousands of enthusiastic clients continue to pour through the ever-open doors of Caesars hotels. The secret to the company’s success lies in their one unrivaled asset: they are able to track the activities of the overwhelming majority of gamblers who walk in. They know exactly what games we like to play, what foods we enjoy for breakfast, when we prefer to visit, who our favorite hostess might be and exactly how to keep us coming back for more.
Caesars’ dogged data-gathering methods have been so successful that they grew to become the world’s largest casino operator, and they have inspired companies from across industries to ramp up their own data mining in the hopes of boosting their targeted marketing efforts. Some do this themselves. Some rely on data brokers. Others clearly enter a moral gray zone that would make American consumers deeply uncomfortable.
Even if you’ve never set foot in a casino or signed up for an airline’s frequent flier program, companies little-known to the public like Acxiom are still gathering information on you at every turn. And there are those, such as PeopleSmart and Instant Checkmate, that will sell your dossier to anyone for cash.
The reality is that we live in an age where our personal information is harvested and aggregated whether we like it or not. And it is growing ever more difficult for those businesses that choose not engage in more intrusive data gathering to compete with those that do. Tanner’s timely warning resounds: yes, there are many benefits to the free flow of all this data, but there is a dark side as well. With societal and legal boundaries on the use of personal data still largely undefined, the potential for abuse looms large.
And, as to what stays in Vegas? The answer: almost nothing…
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