Author Adam Tanner discusses new book about privacy and personal data

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Data pix.

On Facebook and Amazon, using frequent-flyer numbers and loyalty cards, we share personal information every day while buying something, trying to gain access or perks, or engaging in some other ordinary activity.

Adam Tanner, the author of What Stays in Vegas: The World of Personal Data - Lifeblood of Big Business - and the End of Privacy as We Know It can speak to the consequences.

In a discussion of his revealing new book on Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014, at 6:30 p.m. at the Central Library, 14 W. 10th St., Tanner examines how each bit of personal data we surrender can be harvested and aggregated with alarming speed into personal profiles that corporations, marketing services, or more nefarious entities use to their own advantage.

Yes, there are many benefits to the free flow of all this data. But there is a dark, unregulated, and destructive netherworld as well. And it is growing more difficult for businesses that choose not to engage in more intrusive data gathering to compete with those that do.

Nobody does it better, Tanner says, than Caesars Entertainment Corporation, whose Harrah's North Kansas City casino -- and its savvy senior vice president and general manager, Tom Cook -- figure prominently in What Stays in Vegas.

Many thousands of enthusiastic clients pour through the ever-open doors of Caesars' casinos. The secret to the company's success lies in its one unrivaled asset: knowing its clients intimately by tracking the activities of the overwhelming majority of gamblers. The casinos know exactly what games they like to play, what foods they enjoy for breakfast, when they prefer to visit, who their favorite hostess might be, and exactly how to keep them coming back for more.

Caesars' dogged data-gathering methods have been so successful that it has grown into world's largest casino operator, inspiring companies of all kinds to ramp up their own data mining in the hopes of boosting their targeted marketing efforts. Some do it themselves. Some rely on data brokers. Others, Tanner says, enter a moral gray zone that should make American consumers deeply uncomfortable.

A fellow at Harvard University's Institute for Quantitative Social Science, Tanner is a former Reuters bureau chief who was part of the news agency's team cited as a finalist for the 2012 Pu‚Äčlitzer Prize in international reporting. He was a 2014 recipient of New York University's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute Reporting Award for work "on significant underreported subjects in the public interest."

Tanner has appeared on BBC and National Public Radio broadcasts, and writes for Forbes, Worth, and other magazines.

Admission to the event is free. RSVP at kclibrary.org or call 816.701.3407. Free parking is available in the Library District parking garage at 10th & Baltimore.

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