When I started working at the old Bell System in the early 70's the technology was relatively crude by today's standards but it was still information collection in the early computer stages. We took down details of customers with graphite "mark-sense" pencils, filling in bubbles to be scanned later that day and downloaded by tape or disk into a computer database. When customer's objected to certain questions or railed about Ma Bell storing their personal information and invading their privacy...almost all of us thought in our heads "your personal information privacy? long gone."
We talked about it amongst ourselves, the box of Pandora had been opened and although still theoretical at the time, we knew about arpanet and even had limited access to it. Bell Labs was always informing us about the bold new future and what we imagined was to become the internet. We also figured out that the phone network, the old social networking system, as intrusive as it was, would seem downright benign in comparison to the intrusion of the new one to come.
Today comes word that shoppers who had signed up for Sears online community also had signed on to a carefully hidden agreement for what is essentially spyware. This software installation tracked all of the customer's online activity including banking activity to their banks and bill paying services.
It's bad enough the government intrudes far too deeply into our lives tracking our information unnecessarily "just in case." Corporations have taken "marketing measurement" to an extreme people don't even think about from the grocery store discount cards to credit cards, purchase agreements and things too numerous to mention. They actually track and know more than the government.
To get the full story on what Sears has done you can read Robert Vamosi's "Spyware found in Sears online community installation" in his blog on CNET.