Be Careful What You Wish For

27 June 2018

It’s a problem that is centuries old, no matter from what walk of life or where you live: what to give the happy couple on their wedding day? The Duke and Duchess of Sussex reportedly sent back £7 million worth of gifts received from well-wishing members of the public – or as some cynics might point out, those that spotted a product placement opportunity.

To their credit, the Duke and Duchess requested that the public make donations to seven chosen charities. The Canadian government made a $50,000 donation. That has to be more gratifying than the roomful of antique Canadian furniture that Prince Charles and Princess Diana reportedly received.

Wedding lists and gift lists are a fascinating insight into people’s private lives and personal taste. Is there anyone who has looked down a gift list and not made a disparaging comment about at least one item? Or felt it was bizarrely intimate buying someone else’s bed linen (but you’ve left it to the last minute and it’s the only thing left).

At a time when the privacy of data couldn’t be more topical, in the wake of an endless stream of GDPR emails, gift lists are surprisingly accessible. Moreover, you don’t even need to be a guest.

For one prominent UK retailer, you only need the surname of one of the parties getting married and the wedding date to access their list. Another outlet simply requires just the surname of one partner. For one online retailer, where you can combine presents from different shops, by selecting the month, year and first name, the site will return all the names of couples getting married at that time.

Those of us who are not getting married also aren’t immune. Amazon’s ‘Find a List’ search will show you all the items an individual has selected – not necessarily with the intention of receiving them as gifts, but as a way of keeping track of things they would like to buy. If you can’t judge a book by its cover you can definitely judge a person by their books.

Online retailers need to make profits by making sales. Gift lists provide a useful mechanism through which to do this. But our privacy may not be at the top of their agenda. There are some very simple steps you can take to make sure it is at the top of yours.

  • Amazon – Do not store items you want to buy in your gift list. Put them in your ‘Basket’ and then select ‘Save For Later’.
  • Wedding lists – choose a provider that will offer strong security settings such as a gift list number or password. Only keep the list open for as long as necessary.
  • Consider that what you do add to gift lists (whether it is wedding, baby showers or simply your own Amazon list) is publicly searchable.

If you don’t consider your privacy when using online retailers, it may not just be your friends and family who are critiquing your choice of homewares or reading material.

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About the Author

Juliet Young


Juliet draws on over 15 years of experience in the corporate investigations and intelligence field to help clients solve reputation management and privacy problems.

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