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Friday, February 08, 2008


Ken Magill, a columnist for junk mail publication, Direct, also a self-proclaimed drool-bucket moron, shoots off his big mouth again; this time about the Sears privacy issue over their ComScore software that powers the Sears Holdings Community (SHC). He labels our concerns over the loss of privacy as a “witch hunt.” The Sears customer was encouraged to join SHC, resulting in the downloading of software that tracks his or her habits, without the user knowing what’s going on unless…you read the fine print. Ben Edelman, asst. professor at the Harvard Business School and noted anti-spyware researcher, says in this incident “Sears falls short of Federal Trade Commission privacy standards.” according to In the same article, Edelman states: “Privacy statements are bunk and they need to change.” Edelman also joined the “My SHC Community,” walking us through the maze of procedures and the “Privacy Statement and User License Agreement,” a 2,971 word document in a small scroll box with only ten lines visible. Finally, on the tenth page does Sears mention that it “monitors all of the Internet behavior that occurs on the computer on which you install the application, including … filling a shopping basket, completing an application form, or checking your … personal financial or health information.” Although this may even be bordering on satisfying their legal obligation, it is unclear why Sears would bury it on page ten. Chief junk mail ranter Magill makes light of Edelman’s comment that “sophisticated” users would pick up the threat to their privacy and stop installation, but novices might proceed not understanding the potential hazards. What do drool-bucket morons know about sophistication? In a Washington Post article, the law firm of KamberEdelson filed a class-action suit against Sears in Cook County, Illinois, just before the retailer had taken down the most startling part of the ComScore software that allowed someone to create a free account and look up the purchase history of any customer. This is Privacy 101 and it is hard to understand how an organization the size of Sears would not have had the oversight to catch this before implementation. Attorneys can see a copy of the complaint here. KamberEdelson, by the way, is the same New York city based law firm that successfully sued Sony BMG Music Entertainment when millions of music CD’s were shipped with spyware. But the fact of what Sear did is not the real point of today’s post. Although the incident is important to understanding how irresponsible the business community can be with our personal data, the real culprit is the junk mail industry and its disdain for conceding that it is wrong in matters like this. Agreed, columnist Magill does not represent the attitude of all junk mailers, but from my 35 years as a list/data broker, he has a majority in his corner who are still convinced that they own your name and private information. More on this tomorrow with Sears’ reaction.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Jack, you made a major error in accusing comScore of having provided Sears with software that "allowed someone to create a free account and look up the purchase history of any customer." The truth is that that comScore wasn't involved in that issue in any way -- as would have been clear to you if you had taken the time to carefully read the Washington Post article or even the complaint. Now, what was that you were saying about "drool bucket morons?"