26 March 2015

Data Sales

Who gets the data when things go wrong? In the US retailer RadioShack is reportedly trying to auction its customer data - a mere 117 million customers - as part of its court-supervised bankruptcy. The data supposedly includes "consumer names, phone numbers, mailing addresses, e-mail addresses, and, where allowed, activity data".

Minor problem: RadioShack  has recurrently stated that it "will not sell or rent your personally identifiable information to anyone at any time".

RadioShack has made undertakings to its in-store and online customers that personal identifying information would not be sold, with signage for example indicating
The information you give us is treated with discretion and respect. We pride ourselves on not selling our private mailing list. From time to time, we may send you information from our company or from select, responsible companies that may join with RadioShack to bring you special offers
The  Tennessee and Texas governments, along with telco AT&T (for which RadioShack was a mobile phone service agent) have objected to the sale, variously arguing that the data isn't RadioShack's to sell or that it's grossly undervalued.

The proposed sale is reminiscent of dot com sales more than a decade ago, which resulted in tighter protection for information about minors (for example gathered through online toy sales) but not adults.