The privacy lobby has made Covid-19 hurt worse

It's easy to be annoyed at the privacy lobby as your daily internetting is disrupted dozens of unnecessary clicks to dismiss privacy notifications but consume far to much time reading the fine print of the very same announcements to make sure you do not agree to something unpleasant like spam.

As Covid-19 sweeps its cultural change through Europe and America, we are seeing shopping centres opening early or taking other steps to look after the elderly or infirm. If you have an underlying health condition then, thankfully, some shops are adapting their physical retail to assist you.

Have you seen anything similar on the digital front?

Right now; I haven't.

In other words, it's not currently possible to rock up to Tesco, Sainsbury's, Amazon or Waitrose online and let them know that you're in an at-risk group.

The mood music has been entirely the opposite. How dare these retail monsters know that you might be vulnerable? What fines can we position against them so that they've no way of knowing you a different from anyone else?

Pave a path with good intentions and look where it gets you.

These well-intended privacy concerns and a terrible lack of agile development mean that eCommerce solutions are lagging in responding to the Covid-19 crisis. Digital is slower than meatspace. Who would have thought it?

The solution? Amazon, John Lewis, Sainsbury's et al. should be able to know when a customer needs priority treatment confidently.

That may be a privacy advocate's nightmare, but tough. It's needed.

Update: 22nd March

The latest email from Sainbury's leans heavily into this point, the challenges and potential solutions. Here's the key snippet;
Many of you have also asked me about priority online delivery slots for elderly, disabled and vulnerable customers. 
We have been able to identify a number of customers as elderly and vulnerable based on the information they have given us previously. These details would include date of birth and if you have ever used our vulnerable customer helpline. For all of these customers, we will email you today (Sunday) with information on when slots will become available. 
If you do not receive an email and you consider yourself to be vulnerable, please visit our Groceries Online website on Monday for information on how to contact us. We are also working as quickly as possible on an option for people to register themselves as disabled and vulnerable on their online shopping accounts.

Photograph credit: Yoel Peterson.

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