Saturday, January 27, 2007

Privacy

January seems to be the time of year for all the companies I do business with to send me privacy policy updates. These are all usually pretty similar, one or two page letters filled with various ways the company will try to sell me and my information to other companies to make a quick buck (usually in the guise of claiming to provide better service to me).

Take for example the Sprint/Nextel privacy policy, which was pretty typical. Here is a snippet:

...CPNI [Customer Proprietary Network Information] is information like whom, where, when, and for how long you call; what products and services you buy; how these products and services are configured; and what details are contained in your bill....Sprint may share you CPNI with third parties that assist Sprint in promoting or providing these services.


At the other end of the spectrum was a tiny little postcard we got from the company that we bought an extended auto warranty from. Their privacy policy went like this (nearly in its entirety):

We collect personal information about you from the following sources:
* Information we receive from you, from your application or other forms you furnish to us, such as your name, address, telephone number, coverage, fees; and,
* Information about your transactions with us such as: claims made, parties to the repair, repairs performed and benefits paid.

We may only disclose all information we collect, as described above, to companies that perform inspections for us.

We do not disclose any personal information about former customers to anyone, except as permitted by law.

We restrict access to personal information about you to those employees who need to know that information in order to provide products and services to you. We maintain physical, electronic, and procedural safeguards that comply with federal regulations to guard your personal information.


Notice that the extended warranty place doesn't talk about opting out, because there is nothing to opt-out of. They don't give my information to basically anyone except the people who have to have it in order to provide warranty services. Where as most of the rest of the page of Sprint's privacy notice is about what needs to be done to 'opt-out' of them selling your personal information.

Why would I want Sprint disclosing who I call and how often, or how much my phone bills are? What could that possibly be used for, except evil and nefarious purposes? Sprint is also the company who has sales reps call me on my cell phone (which costs me minutes) during the day while I am at work, to ask why I don't subscribe to text messaging service.

As if I wasn't already dissatisfied with their service enough, bothering me to try and squeeze more money out of me is only going to make my disgust with them worse.

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