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Just How "Private" is Your Private Information?

by aquinasandmore on June 3, 2008

When you make a purchase with a website you probably assume that your personal information is not being farmed out to other organizations. If you read through company privacy policies, you will probably find that most state that they won't share your personal information with anyone.

Recently I noticed something interesting about a major Catholic On-line store. Their privacy policy until the day after Christmas last year read "We do not share your email address with anyone. We may, on limited occasion, share our customer list including names and addresses to Catholic not-for-profit groups that we believe are worthy. If you would like to remove your name from our shareable list please email us at customerservice@catholiccompany.com."

Not that bad, I guess, as long as you don't mind getting flooded with mailings from Catholic non-profits asking you for money to fund their fight against whatever is the emergency of the day.

Starting on December 26 of 2007, the policy was changed to read "We do not share your email address with anyone. We may, on limited occasion, share your name, mailing address, and general shopping behavior with other responsible businesses we believe may offer products or services of interest to our customers. If you would like to remove your name from our shareable list please contact us." (Emphasis mine)

Notice that they will now share personal information including shopping behavior with businesses - not just Catholic non-profits - that they think will be of "interest" to their shoppers.

If you go through their checkout process you will find that opting out of junk mail isn't an option without filling out a contact form on their site. You also will find that you have to click on a separate privacy link before you check out to find out about the mail list selling.

Today we found something interesting at an on-line list broker site. List brokers are companies that go looking for other companies that want to rent lists. If you only share information on "limited occasions", do you really need the expense of hiring a list broker to find buyers for your list?

Here at Aquinas and More our privacy is very simple. In spite of the extra money we could make, we don't sell, rent or give your personal information to anyone.

If you are a business that does plan on selling your customer list, here are a couple of suggestions:

  1. Be very clear during the checkout process that you sell information.
  2. Make sure you have an opt-out option for customers during the checkout process. Even better, make it an opt-in option during checkout.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Christine the Soccer Mom June 4, 2008 at 2:02 pm

Ian, you are in an article featured in The Catholic Virginian this week. The article is mainly about your dealings w/ Catholic Online and the finance company associated w/ them. When I read it, I thought, “Hey! I kind of know that guy!”

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