When did it become legal to sell our personal information?

Is it our right to keep our personal information private? When we buy something from a company, does that simple transaction give them the right to sell or disseminate our names and other private information to other entities?

Now thats a tricky Question. see its always been illeagle but there not selling it there more or less giving it.

see it all starts back with the law of not selling beer on sundays. now the law says you may not sell beer on a sunday. now some guy sells a sixteen dollar back of peanuts and give the pack of beer. you get your beer and he gets money for the said beer with out directly selling it to you but inturn giving away with. the company has a list of info and another company wants it. so the first sells the a computer for three thousand dollars with the list on the hard drive. it could be a cheap little tandee for all they care there getting what the want without breaking the law.

so it all how you look at it!:slight_smile:

State and federal laws have always, apparently, deemed certain “personal” information part of the public domain and right to know. That would include real estate/land transactions, registration information for licenses (auto, boats, motorcycle), lawsuits, marriages, divorces, births, deaths, sundry other court actions, etc.

In another thread, I challenged why the state should make public every detail about real estate transactions. I received several replies, none satisfying and all easily handled in a reformed system.

In our age of data-chrunching and “data mining,” whatever information that was once kept at the county courthouse or Department of Motor Vehicles is now routinely bought and sold. In other words, your privacy and personal affairs are saleable commodities for the financial benefit of other parties.

In terms of commercial transactions, VISA/Mastercard report your spending habits to data mining companies, despite their protestations to the contrary. (They argue that you agreed to these terms in accepting their credit cards.) This means that anyone with the inclination and cash can acquire amazing details about your personal life–details that might have shocked George Orwell. It’s not Big Brother who we should fear; it’s big business. (Or perhaps an alliance sometime in the future.)

In some states, hospitals provide information on births and deaths, and some schools provide information on their students–names, addresses, etc. Whatever information is gleaned at the local level is assimilated into a massive national database and then sold to interested parties.

A recent report in MSNBC said that it’s now possible to purchase the phone records of anyone you want. Such records have been sold–or at least divulged–for many years, and apparently no law is on the books to stop it. Moreover, most medical/mental health records are part of (poorly guarded) regional/national databases, courtesy of “managed care.” Too, many local governments now allow Internet access so that complete strangers can snoop through your real estate transactions.

In Texas a few years back, a data mining corporation purchased the driving records of every individual in the state. A high court balked and ordered them to return the records. The corporation simply moved to the Cayman Islands (IIRC) and continued to do business.

Getting back to your OP, cash transactions leave no trail. Some of the more progressive companies maintain they have strict confidentiality/privacy policies. Who knows it they’re telling the truth?

Despite the duke’s assertion to the contrary, selling ‘personal’ information has always been legal. It’s just not been as lucrative, competitive and detailed as we see today. Mailing lists, for example, have been bought and sold for decades. The problem was that nobody had the capability to store large amounts of data on large groups fo people. Even when storage devices became available they were expensive, large, and rare. Most of the transactions themselves were also paper based which does not lend itself to easy sorting, categorizing and selling. Advances in computers, especially in cheap storage and data mining, means that pretty much any company can now afford the hardware and software necessary to keep huge amounts of marketing data. Most transactions today are electronic in one form or another, making data readily available. Where marketeers used to use surveys, focus groups, sales data and a lot of mathematical formulas to determine market trends and consumer habits, now all they have to do is obtain data from various merchants (including government, credit card companies, check verification companies, etc.), lump it all together, parse as necessary and sell it to marketeers. The resulting data is easier to manage, more accurate, more detailed, and cheaper to obtain than the old ways. It’s a case of technology running ahead of the legal system. How will the legal system catch up? That’s a whole 'nother question.

Absolutely. In order to exercise that right you will have to give up some privileges, though. No bank accounts, no licenses (driving, hunting, fishing, etc.), deal only in cash and in person (no phone, no mail), never use credit of any kind, never register anything (cars, real estate), the list goes on. Until such time as the laws are changed, if they ever are, each individual must decide whether privileges outweigh privacy rights.

In a nutshell, yes. With the exception of some government records you give the information to the company of your own free will. Once you give the information away it becomes the property of the merchant to do with pretty much as they please.

I think the issue is not when it became legal but that it was never specifically illegal. In too many cases, companies are free to do what they want with the information they obtain. Recent laws have limited what financial institutions can do with your data, but the data sharing is “opt out”, which requires an affirmative step by the individual to remove their data from the pool. These laws also don’t limit use of the information within a company, which can mean extremely wide distribution within far-reaching conglomerates.

There have been several failed dotcoms which tried to sell their transaction databases as assets. Some did. Some didn’t after public outcry made it a public relations nightmare. Since public relations aren’t terribly meaningful for a bankrupt company, expect more and more companies to sell your data to the highest bidder when they get short of cash.

Amazon.com considered it a “feature” to let other people see what books you’d bought. They covered slightly by sorting only by geographic location or other demographics, but this still allowed tremendous data mining. Plug in the zip code for the Redmond campus to see what books the guys at Microsoft are buying, and you can probably predict their press releases six months from now. I don’t know if Amazon has pulled this feature or just obfuscated it since I took my business elsewhere.

There are reports today that an identity-theft ring in Oregon was caught with a set of CD-ROMs containing the registration records for every registered driver in Oregon.
http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/6000/20011127/lo/985135_1.html

There’s nothing especially bad about Oregon; the same thing could happen in many states. As plans for national ID cards and other economies of scale call for accumulating data at the national level, expect more huge releases of information. It’s inevitable since the people collecting the data have no vested interest in keeping it private.

You buy a product. You call their 800 number for help. They “mark” you and sell your info to companies that might want you to call them.

When you dial a toll free number, you just made a call on their dime, so you phone number and all connectable information (address name, etc) is forwarded on to other companies looking for shmucks who dial 800 numbers.

All (REPEAT ALL) toll free numbers carry your DNIS (phone number) and is easily converted to personal ID

In the distant island of Iceland the goverment passed a law in 2000 which garanteed a privat company full accsess to all medical information of the nation. That went for the living and for speciments collected through the islands medical history. The information are to go into a medical database of the whole nation. The argument was fierce, One side (antilaw) said that a privat company (in this case DeCode genetics) should not profit from information that had been collected by the state for the sole use of the doctors treating you at that time. That this information had been gathered from people in the belife that it would never see the light of day. ALso that this could lead to selling of vonerable information to companys which might benefit (such as insurance company’s. The other side (the prolaw) stated that the medical progress this database could bring about was so immense that no arguments should stop it. And it did’nt. The laws passed in the spring of 2000. In this case you have strong arguments both ways, but can we justify it?
I don’t know. I think we have to look at each individual case and pass our judgement. But I do think that if a company is to share your information they should let you know when you are dealing with them. And you could therefore decide not to do buissness based on that information.

Man in bar: I really like you. Can I have your phone number?
Woman: Sure. Here you go.
2nd Man: Hey, I’d like to get that phone number too.
Bartender: Yeah, me too.
Man: Five bucks apiece?
2nd Man & Bartender: Okay!
[Woman looks aghast]