« Reading List: Persistence, Macros, XHTML, and Tools Download | Main | Reading List: Reminiscences of a Stock Operator »

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Privacy: Murderer Ratted Out by Customer Fidelity Card

According to an article in the July 28, 2005 issue of L'Hebdo, on October 29, 2003 an immigrant from Kosovo living in Winterthur, Switzerland murdered his wife with 20 blows by a hammer. At trial, he claimed that the murder was a crime of passion, and that he seized the hammer, which happened to be at hand, in a fit of anger.

Unfortunately for the defendant, when he bought the hammer immediately before returning home to commit the crime, he handed over his customer fidelity card, not wanting to forego the rebate points due for the purchase of the CHF 21 murder weapon. The store in question not only records the identity of the card-holder and the amount of the purchase, but a detailed list of each item bought. This database entry, introduced at the trial, sufficed to prove premeditated murder, for which the perpetrator was sentenced to 13 years in prison. (Yes, that seems a tad light for killing your wife with a hammer, but that's how murder sentences in Switzerland tend to run; come for the scenery, stay for the murder. Note, however, that the convicted was 73 years old and won't be getting out until he's 86.)

Both of the two largest Swiss retailers report they've issued about 2.1 million customer fidelity cards, which is a pretty remarkable market penetration when you consider that there are a total of 3.2 million households in the country. Most people don't care if the store keeps track of how much milk, bread, and cheese they buy, but when purchasing murder weapons, it's best not to let them swipe your card.

Posted at July 28, 2005 21:09