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ZIP code inquiry ruling is double standard at best
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Having cashiers ask me for my ZIP code in the past has been a small annoyance.

Occasionally I’d ask why and the clerks would respond by either saying they didn’t really know why but they were told to ask for it or else they would say it was to help the company’s marketing efforts.

Usually I’d just say “the same as yours” or offer 95337 or 95336 since one is my postal mailing address ZIP code and the other is the ZIP code where I live. Either way, the clerk would punch in some numbers, complete my transaction and I went on my merry way.

Apparently I didn’t realize this was a breach of my personal security to a point it is almost a federal case.

Last week the state’s high court ruled that the ZIP code is part of a customer’s address so therefore violates a California consumer privacy law that forbids stores from requiring addresses during credit card transactions.

That ruling has now triggered a bunch of lawsuits against retailers by class-action happy attorneys who are drawn by the $250 maximum violation for the first violation and $1,000 for each subsequent violation.

Get real.

First of all, stores that ask the annoying question have never refused to complete a transaction. They’ve asked it when I’ve paid with cash, by debit card, by credit card or by check.

And just how personal is an entire ZIP code anyway? Your exact address I can see but not your ZIP code.

But that hasn’t stopped society’s specialized piranhas - class-action lawyers - from filing lawsuits against Wal-Mart, Target, Macy’s and Cost Plus so far with more guaranteed to come.

Asking for your ZIP code - which you didn’t have to give obviously - was about as big an intrusion of your privacy as a retailer asking for the county you reside in.

So how did someone become so thin skinned to sue?

The odds they were talked into it by some enterprising class-action attorney. If the attorney hits pay dirt with their litigation mining expedition, it isn’t unusual for them to picket anywhere from 30 to 60 percent of the settlement.

And what is the real level of privacy violated?

You could easily argue that almost everyone asked that question accesses the Internet at some point. In doing so, someone is tracking that person’s habits with much more laser precision than a general location that could be a thousand square miles when one is asked about their ZIP code.

That information gleaned without your consent is tied to your IPS address which is about as precise as locating where you are at as a street address.

Yet the wisdom of the California Legislature targets the one “alleged” invasion that is actually not much more than an annoyance. Meanwhile, the state lets corporations use your Internet activity to secure much more specific information about you tied to your specific IPS address to do with as they wish.

The law on the books is a testament to the crowd that goes whining to government for protection when they don’t like what they are being asked. It also underscores the massive double standard that government has for brick-and-mortar businesses as opposed to those operating in cyber space.

Both enterprises are storing the information in data bases for marketing purposes yet the cyber space operation has an extremely precise spending profile of an individual as opposed to the brick and mortar retailer that has a general geographic area they can tie marketing efforts to from information they glean by asking for a ZIP code.

If the legislature really is concerned about privacy, they should adopt stiff penalties for any website that has cookies silently gleaning information from any computer based in California accessing the Internet and repeal the provision of the privacy law that essentially makes asking for one’s ZIP code - but not mandating it be given to complete a transaction - an offense that one can be sued over.