A chain of grocery stores located primarlily in the west coast of the United States. Recently they switched from coupons to a membership card, slightly creepy, but the personal information is easy to falsify. Regarding the name of the store, I have no idea. There is nothing particularly safe about the store, nor does it seem to be superior safety wise compared to other grocery purchasing venues.

After midnight it undergoes a startling metamorphosis from Safeway to Dangerway - the spiked pits and rings of fire come out and the supermarkets turn into arenas for an extreme game show somewhat akin to American Gladiators where contestants compete against each other, wild animals and killer cyborgs to win free groceries.

Think Mad Max beyond the Thunderdome with shopping carts instead of souped-up motorized vehicles.

Safeway in the UK

Safeway opened supermarkets in the UK in 1962 and expanded until by the mid-eighties they occupied an important position in the UK groceries market. The stores had a reputation for quality, albeit at a slightly higher expense than the competitors. They had an ambience which made them a pleasant place to shop.

In 1987 the US owners sold their entire UK operation to a company which at the time operated Presto, an inferior supermarket chain. A rebranding exercise began, which by 1996 had completed with all of the former Presto stores renamed to Safeway. The UK company then changed its own name to Safeway.

Today, Safeway is struggling to maintain a poor fourth place, behind Tesco, Sainsbury's and Asda in the UK supermarket league table. Stock Market analysts do not seem to think that the outlook for the company is particularly good. Shoppers are angered and confused by a pricing policy which rotates weekly special offers every Wednesday, but also varies the prices of everything else from week to week in such a way that it is impossible to guarantee that the regular shopping bill will ever be predictable.

Your Safeway club card can land you in jail.

In August of 2004, firefighter Philip Lyons discovered and extinguished a flaming cardboard box outside of his home. Lyons became a suspect and his Safeway club card purchase record showed that he had recently bought the particular brand of fire starters used in the arson. He was arrested and charged, but the true arsonist eventually came forward and exonerated Lyons. Because a clause in Safeway's privacy policy explicitly allows the release of records to investigating authorities searching for probable cause, improper protection and an inconvenient auditing process pose a threat to personal liberty.

Like most similar offers, Safeway allows the customer to opt out of the targeted coupons and other marketing offers. Because they store aggregate data for other purposes, however, Safeway still appears to collect purchase records from members who have opted out.

Safeway attempts to protect privacy by refusing to share addresses, telephone numbers, and purchase records with third party entities for any marketing or other purposes. Their privacy policy also notes a commitment to educating workers with access to sensitive information about their responsibilities to protect privacy and to avoid information disclosure. Barring accidental or malicious disclosure by an insider, criminal investigators are the only outside parties able to view the purchase record.

Even though Safeway adequately limits access to purchase records and personal information, other measures are involved in fully protecting any sensitive databank. Safeway is obligated to protect against the insertion of false or erroneous purchase data and to assure that customers can easily audit their purchase record. Safeway fails on both counts.

First, no physical card is necessary to invoke Safeway Club discounts. Any customer may receive discounts using any account, thereby placing a malicious purchase record into that of the account holder. The evil customer must only know a widely available piece of information: the account holder's phone number. If customers are allowed as a matter of convenience to give their phone numbers, it follows that those records should be equally easy to audit in order to detect unauthorized usage of the account.

To their credit, Safeway allows a customer to request in writing and challenge their "information by which [they] can be personally identified." The brochure containing these instructions (below), however, is not clear whether the purchase record is included when such a request is honored. Even if it is assumed that the purchases are included, one customer found himself facing a $75 administration fee to view his record (cbc.ca). While Safeway provides a convenient way to insert purchases into an arbitrary record, this customer found that Safeway viewed record auditing as "a task that is outside the normal course of Safeway business."

Grocer affinity programs have considerable potential to reveal facts about one's basic day-to-day lifestyle. In the case of Safeway, the itemized and dated electronic purchase record associated with a household is a kind of digital medicine cabinet, ranging from plastic sandwich baggies to lighter fluid and never expiring. If Safeway does not limit its coupon-generating purchase records to a reasonable 2-3 week period, does not permanently remove older purchases, or does not protect insertion into a customer's record by requiring a reasonably unforgeable club card, then the Safeway Club system remains a demonstrated threat to personal liberty and privacy.

Node your homework. This was subject to a word limit, so I may expand it.


"Loyalty cards: Getting to know you." CBC News. October 24, 2004. http://www.cbc.ca/marketplace/files/services/privacy/loyalty.html

Furia, Joe. "Firefighter Arrested For Attempted Arson." August 28, 2004. http://www.komotv.com/stories/32785.htm

Safeway Privacy Policy. http://www.safeway.com/privacy_page.asp

From Canada Safeway's "Privacy Commitment to our Customers" brochure

(emphasis mine)

What is your personal information?

Personal information means information about an identifiable individual. This includes things such as your name, address, telephone number, credit card number or other information by which you can be personally identified. Personal information does not include the name, title or business address or telephone number of suppliers, contractors or other business people.

We do not disclose your personal information.

Safeway's commitment to you is that we do not sell, lease, transfer or disclose your personal information to any other company, person or third party for commercial purposes. Safeway may disclose personal information in response to a subpoena, court process, specific request by a law enforcement agency, or as otherwise required or permitted by applicable law.


How do we keep your personal information secure?

We make every reasonable effort to maintain security to protect your personal information from unauthorized access, disclosure and use. Our employees play a large part in keeping your information secure. They have a responsibility as employees of Canada Safeway to help protect your privacy. We keep our employees informed about our privacy policy and they are required to comply with both as a condition of employment.

How accurate is your personal information?


If you want to review and verify personal information we have about you, you can make a written request to do so. You may deliver a written request for access to any Customer Service desk. We may charge you a nominal fee to access your information, however you will be advised of any fee in advance. If you find errors you can request that changes be made and we will consider if the correction should be made. We may be prevented from allowing access to some information, however you will be advised if this is the case. You may challenge our decision not to release certain information.

We only retain your personal information for as long as reasonably required. The length of time information is retained will depend on the purposes for which the information was collected.


Safeway Privacy Policy

Safeway respects the privacy of our customers. We take steps to ensure that your privacy is respected and protected when collecting and using information you provide.

Data Collection

Safeway only collects personally-identifying information from customers when customers apply for a Safeway Club Card; enter sweepstakes or other contests when using your Club Card or other means of entry; visit our web site -- www.safeway.com; and purchase groceries or other items with a method of payment that contains personally-identifying information. "Personally-identifying information" means your name, address, bank account, credit card number, telephone number or other information by which you can be personally identified.


Data Use


Safeway does not sell or lease personally-identifying information to any other non-affiliated company, person or agency. Safeway will disclose personally-identifying information only if required to do so by law, or if requested to do so by a law enforcement agency in the context of an ongoing criminal investigation where such disclosure could be required by subpoena, search warrant or court order. Such request for information must be cleared by our Legal Department. In addition, Safeway may use any information our customers provide when conducting our own investigations of alleged customer wrongdoing, such as dishonored or fraudulent method of payment.



We provide protection against unauthorized disclosure of the information you share with us. We store information in a secure manner. We restrict access to personally identifying information to only those with a need to know. We also educate those people with access to customer information about their responsibility to protect your privacy and we give them clear guidelines regarding the use and disclosure of such information.



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