Service providers generally engage (with more or less competence) in something called Customer Relationship Management (CRM).
If this were a symmetric world (which of course it isn’t), then we would expect service consumers to engage in something called Service Provider Relationship Management (SPRM). Why not?
I have relationships with a great many service providers, all of whom try (sometimes with comical levels of incompetence) to manage their relationship with me. One of the mechanisms I use to keep track of what they are all up to is to vary the data I give them.
If I give everyone the same email address, then I don’t know who’s been passing my address out to third parties (whether deliberately or as a result of lax security). But if I vary the email address, then the leakage is easier to track. It also helps me to sort incoming mail into folders for different levels of attention. (My notion of importance/urgency is not always the same as my service provider's notion.)
I used to do the same with street addresses, adding spurious details which I assumed the postman would ignore, but which would show up on junk mail to reveal the source. But for a long time now, I have been prevented from doing this by address cleansing routines, which convert all addresses into a standard “correct” form, and remove any spurious codes. (I was reminded of this recently, when I saw a press release for a web service for address data cleansing.)
Melissa Data Web Service
Case Study: Saab Cars USA DW Institute DS Star
There are two general points arising from this. Firstly, this example shows their CRM interfering with my SPRM. In a symmetric world, CRM and SPRM would be perfectly aligned, so this conflict is evidence of asymmetric demand. (Another example of asymmetry is in matters of trust – we are supposed to trust them, even though they evidently don’t trust us.)
Secondly, data cleanse routines support a particular set of purposes in the use of the data, and generally foreclose another set of purposes. My attitude to data cleanse is critical and selective - acceptance when absolutely necessary, awareness of side-effects, avoidance when there are viable alternatives. (In medicine, I take a similar line on antibiotics.)
Finance Industry View of security
[Update May 2006] In a post called CRM is Dead, Seth Godin has just discovered something similar at Disney: Customer Managed Relationships. But this could be just trying to reassert control by the supplier. I shall be interested to know more about this.