Oh, now this is just great.
June 29, 2000 10:06 PM   Subscribe

Oh, now this is just great. Going into bankrupcy, the most valuable property that a lot of failed dot-coms have is all the information they've collected about their customers in the mean time, like names and addresses and phone numbers and credit card numbers and purchasing patterns and loads of other stuff. In order to appease creditors, three of them are actively trying to sell off their databases right now. What makes that interesting is that they had previously promised never to reveal that information to anyone.
posted by Steven Den Beste (10 comments total)
CraftShop's was even more detailed: "We will hold your secure online shopping information in the strictest confidence," the agreement said. "We will never release it to any person or any company for any purpose. We do not sell, rent or lend any part of our mailing list."

But now they're trying to sell it.

That agreement looks legally enforceable to me. The only question would be who would represent in court the interests of all the people whose privacy was being invaded. This sounds like a job for the ACLU, 'cause I sure can't think of anyone else who'd do it. There ain't no money, so someone would have to do it Pro Bono.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 10:15 PM on June 29, 2000

I can't imagine that the actual people who's information it is would care enough to fight it. When you give your personal details over to a website do you really expect them to be kept private?
posted by iamcal at 1:13 AM on June 30, 2000

yes. doh.
posted by tiaka at 5:28 AM on June 30, 2000

This could set a nasty precedent. Let's say these companies are successful is selling off their info. That means the next time a failed company files for bankruptcy, they could be forced to sell off their consumer information as an asset.

posted by alan at 5:46 AM on June 30, 2000

Is it even legal to sell a credit card number? Isn't that what hacker kids go to jail for? Ugh. What legal purpose could a third party have for even knowing that information.
posted by thirteen at 7:31 AM on June 30, 2000

Not credit card numbers thirteen.

Things like name, address, what you've bought, what you thought about buying (aka, what pages you looked at etc.), all the 'likes, dislikes' you may have filled out etc.
posted by alan at 9:47 AM on June 30, 2000

There ain't no money, so someone would have to do it Pro Bono.

Steven, a good lawyer can ALWAYS find the fees. Assuming that the privacy agreements were part of a legally binding contract, the two remedies for breach of that contract would be:

A. an injunction invalidating the sale, and prohibiting the further disclosure, use, and/or retention of the info. This recourse is likely only for someone itnersted in funding their own lawsuit.

B. money damages - the selling company, now flush with cash, would be able to pay the judgment. Also, a clever litigator might be able to convince a judge that any proceeds from the sale of private information should be held in constructive trust for those whose information has been sold - in other words, if you sell my information, you must be doing it on my behalf so that I ge a pro-rata share of the proceeds.

C. there may also be tort claim for invasion of privacy, leading to the possibility of - dum dum DUUUUMMM! - punitive damages. Now, these may not be useful against a bankrupt company, but if they make any money off the sale of the database, that's what you would go after.

So, yeah, there may be money involved. Maybe I should start soliciting potential plaintiffs... =)
posted by mikewas at 4:19 AM on July 1, 2000

You *would* trust a company to keep your information private? hmm... maybe I'm more paranoid than I thought. I don't care what the privacy statement says: there's nothing that obliges them to stick to it, so the words are just a bunch of glowing phosphor.

posted by Mars Saxman at 1:20 PM on July 4, 2000

Let it be known that on July 4, 2001, the great and omniscient Fezboy! predicts that Jim Ellis of Usenet creation fame will succumb to non-Hodgkins lymphoma on June 28, 2001. This will be a sad time for the Internet community for on the same day, the original Netizen, Michael Hauben will also pass from this mortal coil.

As I have decreed, so it will pass.

posted by BoyWithFez at 1:13 PM on June 29, 2001

Doh! The Great Fezboy! did mean to write July 4, 2000
posted by BoyWithFez at 1:15 PM on June 29, 2001

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