Like so many customer tracking and rewards programs, casino player’s club programs are a fairly benign form of privacy invasion. Indeed, because of the nature of such programs, the compromises made in individual privacy are very much a bargained-for exchange between willing parties.

Casinos love to know where their best customers are spending their time – and money – on the casino floor, and that information is so valuable that they’re willing to lavish free rooms, food, and entertainment in exchange for that data.

For privacy advocates, such programs have always been the source of much consternation. Consumers often report that they are deeply suspicious of being tracked and profiled by companies, and that such fears make them dislike and distrust those companies.

Yet at the same time, woe be unto any airline who fails to track someone’s flights and credit the proper number of frequent flyer points. Similarly, just last week I saw a lady pitching a fit at Safeway because she didn’t get the 85 cents off her bottle of soda that she was entitled to through her club card.

So what makes the difference between unacceptable privacy invasion and someone having a conniption because they weren’t being properly spied upon? The answer is in two words: value proposition.

When people join a casino player’s club, or a discount club at the grocery store, or an airline frequent flyer program, they’re doing so because the company has offered a sufficiently compelling value proposition for that tradeoff in privacy.

Just look at the difference between the love people have for player’s clubs (a glance at the huge lines standing outside the player’s club private lounge to get the free buffets inside tells you everything you need to know) versus the suspicion people have when they first notice how many cameras are pointed at them, just in the elevator alone.

Yes, yes, the cameras are there for the generic public good, but for a more specific and private good, you can’t beat a slab of free prime rib!

Over the last decade I have consulted with many companies, from major corporations to small start-up firms, who have tried to figure out new and innovative ways to gather information about consumers in order to build detailed profiles for use in targeted marketing and advertising.

During the course of almost every one of those consulting projects, I kept my clients focused on how to identify and present the value proposition to end-users in order to mitigate negative perceptions. At the end of the day, the extent to which the activities were perceived as either an acceptable privacy trade-off or an unacceptable privacy invasion almost always turned on how compelling they could make the value proposition. Any company seeking to capitalize on the vast amounts of detailed customer data at their disposal needs only to look to the wild success of casino player’s clubs and the rest of the universe of customer affinity and rewards programs.

Programs like these demonstrate the value that can be had, and shared, when a company can build the kind of relationship with consumers, that allows them to leverage that data in ways that make consumers demand to be tracked, instead of demanding to be left alone.