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Friday, December 24th, 2004

privacy violations for infants

On the morning of the delivery, the nurse hands a sheaf of forms to the mother-to-be. Buried within is a release form offering a free portrait of the new baby. Mom is wired to three different machines, having her pulse and blood pressure measured automatically while two others sensors detect uterine contractions and the baby’s heart rate and another chattering electromechanical behemoth plots a seismograph of both. She’s frightened and excited and anxious and slightly nauseous and terrified — oh, wait, sorry, that’s Dad. But she’s not paying close attention to the paperwork; who wants to read ten pages of contracts an hour before having a baby?

A day later, the baby’s out, Mom’s recovering, and Dad is slightly less insane although even more paranoid, if that’s possible. A nurse enters the room to confirm scheduling for the baby photo. Dad expresses confusion, having misunderstood that a member of the hospital staff would shoot a Polaroid for the gallery on the nursery wall. In fact, the photo enterprise is run by a third party, Growing Family. They’ll shoot a picture of your munchkin, in exchange for his or her name and birthdate and your full name and address.

Does this smell like last month’s tuna salad? How many marketers do you think would be interested in knowing you just had a baby? Hint: all of them.

Growing Family’s privacy policy has a long and impressively complicated name: “Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act”. But it gives them the right to share your private information with anyone they choose. This must be some new use of the word “protection” I wasn’t previously familiar with:

Growing Family will use your information from time to time to promote additional products, services, rewards and special offers from Growing Family Network and its select Network Partners.

My point is not that Growing Family was deceitful. My point is that, to my dismay, caveat emptor begins at birth.

posted to channel: Privacy
updated: 2005-10-23 22:45:27

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