[EAS]Liquidating Privacy

pjk peter.kindlmann at yale.edu
Tue Dec 5 00:21:30 EST 2000

Subject:   Liquidating Privacy

(from Edupage, December 4, 2000)

When dotcom companies go bust they are often faced with the
prospect of satisfying their creditors by violating their own
privacy policies and selling the data they have collected from
their customers. In at least two instances, the FTC and state
attorneys general have stepped in to prevent bankrupt online
retailers from selling their consumer data. However, lawyers are
now saying that the FTC's authority in these matters may be
preempted by bankruptcy law. Bankruptcy lawyer Howard J. Berman
says he believes that the courts will side with bankruptcy law so
long as an acquirer "structures the transaction so it adheres to
the privacy policy the seller had."  Eric London, the FTC's
director of public affairs, says there are no cut-and-dried legal
guidelines for such issues. This legal uncertainty has allowed
an increasing number of online companies to change their privacy
policies so that they may sell off their consumer data if they go
bankrupt. (New York Times, 4 December 2000)

[The implications of our new 'service economy' take a while to sort
out. I'd forgotten that includes a lot of dotcom bubbles inflated
with customers' personal and business data. In addition to all the
'standard' online purchasing, think of all the new start-ups that
back up your or your business's data, archive your photographs, pay
your bills, offer you a free onlne appointment calendar, email
account, etc. --PJK]

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