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From Not Enough to Way Too Much

From Not Enough to Way Too Much

A few weeks ago I traveled abroad and visited London for the first time. Upon arrival I followed the hordes of passengers through the long, winding corridors of Gatwick Airport's International Arrivals terminal. With signs pointing the way and chirpy airport officials ushering us along, I couldn't help but feel like a sheep. Finally we - and about eight other flights - arrived at Immigration. The immigration officials were moving rather fast, stamping passports and welcoming people to glorious England as fast as they arrived. When my turn came I wasn't quite as lucky. I'm not sure whether I "looked like a terrorist" or what (I think seven hours on a plane can do that), but I was peppered with questions about the reasons for my trip (vacation), where I was staying, and so on and so forth. I was then asked to produce my return plane ticket to the United States, which revealed that it was purchased by someone other than me - which they didn't like one bit. The fact that it was purchased by another family member didn't help things. I was detained to talk to a supervisor who then asked to see my hotel confirmations. Still not good enough. Finally I had to pull out my travel itinerary and concert tickets for shows that I was seeing while there to convince them of my innocent purposes. Then I was questioned about why I was seeing the same show three times. (Another story there.) Whew, I was finally in. After this, my luggage was delayed for another 45 minutes. (Yet another story.)

What I'd really like to talk about is information collection and when is it too much.

The Immigration people obviously have to be careful - after all, they have the security of a country to protect. But what I think is completely unnecessary is some of these huge marketing surveys that are out there disguised as simple parts of a registration process. Half the questions have me running back and forth between my tax returns, credit card receipts, CD collection and an encyclopedia for the answers. It's scary how big some of these surveys are getting. And it's getting worse. In about a year I think I'll be sending someone pictures of my family as part of the registration process to access their Web site. I do realize and accept that sites need to collect information about their users, both for marketing purposes and to make the site better. I can also accept that in some cases they're collecting my information to sell it, but I do feel that there needs to be a limit on how much information they should be taking.

If I'm at a music site, I can understand them asking what sort of music I enjoy, but they shouldn't be asking me about music on a gardening site. I've spoken about this with several colleagues who also find it annoying; most of them put in fake information for questions such as these. If they like classical music, they'll put down rap. So how accurate is the information anyway? No one really knows. The marketing guys want as much info as possible and it's not a priority to worry about the accuracy. I think it's up to us - those on the technical end of things, and those who are probably spending the most time online - to try and convey that to the higher-ups. I'm not looking to start a revolution, just some awareness about convenience. Who's with me?

More Stories By Robert Diamond

Robert Diamond is the founder and editor-in-chief of BroadwayWorld.com, the premiere theater site on the net now receiving over 100,000 unique visitors a day. He is also the owner of Wisdom Digital Media - a leading designer of entertainment and technology web sites. He is also the lead producer on BroadwayWorld.com's consistently sold-out Joe's Pub concert series, and Standing Ovations benefit concerts. Diamond was also named one of the "Top thirty magazine industry executives under the age of 30" by Folio magazine. Robert holds a BS degree in information management and technology from the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University. Visit his blog at www.robertdiamond.com.

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