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You don't need to know me

I was going to buy a book online today. A once-off purchase on a whim. I didn't buy it because the company selling it wanted to "get to know me". This isn't a very interesting story, I know, but a point will be made.

The company insisted that I had to create an account (although it already had my shipping details) to make the purchase. It was vital that I didn't miss out on the features of an account; so vital that I couldn't give them money until I had done it. The company insisted that it needed to know my name, and my phone number, and my address, and my date of birth.

So I walked away.

This still hasn't become an interesting story, and the reason why it's not interesting is because it is so common.

Imagine if this happened to you in real life - you walk into a small bookstore, and before you can hand them money, they insist on knowing more about you than your workmates do. You want to perform a transaction, and they're looking for a relationship, just in case you one day want to maybe buy another book.

Online businesses are losing sales; services are missing users; sites are alienating people, all because they are trying to force a relationship. This isn't new, and no-one should be surprised by this. Asking for in-depth user details when they're trying to make a purchase is a poor user experience, but it still keeps happening.

It's not just about purchases, though. Sites offering "sign in with google" or "sign in with facebook" still insist on you filling out another profile, for another account. It is jarring, off-putting, and largely defeats the purpose that Single Sign On (SSO) is trying to achieve.

These sites don't need to know me. Knowing me won't help them to make more sales; it won't help me to better use their services. It won't even be read by a human most of the time (if you have 10,000 customers, are you going to read through all of their personal details?)

It serves no purpose, and makes me have bad-will toward your company. You don't need to know me. I don't want you to know me. If you can offer me better service by knowing me, then tell me how, and let me decide. If "knowing me" is just about your own curiosity, then I'm walking out.

I have lost count of the number of services, sales, and sites I have walked away from because they want to know more about me than they really need to. How much do you need to know to sell me a book? My name and where to send it. Why do I need an account for that? Why is my birthday even relevant? You might want to offer me special deals for my birthday, but I doubt that you will. If I really can't do without your site, then you're getting a big ol' gob of fake data.

I'm a pretty open person most of the time. I'm not a privacy nut; I don't use TOR; I don't block analytics; I don't encrypt my emails. I'm just a regular guy who is sick of services which are over-reaching for information that doesn't concern them.

I respect sites who give reasons for wanting my data, but leave the option up to me. Strangely enough, the sites which are best at that are the ones who I usually give most of my information to. Some sites which do it right are wikipedia, reddit, imgur, Hacker News, and even paypal. I can get by on all of those sites without needing an account. Sure, my interaction is limited, but for research, reading, and paying, I'm just dandy. That's what I want to do; what I'm trying to do. If I want to engage more, then I'll create an account. They leave it up to me.

This is what I'm asking for, and I don't think that it's much. You don't need to know me, and you won't know me until I'm comfortable enough to let you. I don't need another profile, with another set of data about me - I have far too many of them already. Sure, suggest membership, but be ready to explain the benefits. If there are none for me, then I won't waste my time.

You don't need to know me.

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