Bad Privacy Policy cover image

Bad Privacy Policy

Andrew Alba • January 23, 2011

The issue of privacy has come up often lately in the media. Privacy advocates have concerns about the amount of personal information aggregated by companies like Facebook and Google and shared with third parties.

The concerns are legitimate and although I am not as concerned as much as the advocates, it is always on the back of my mind when I provide personal information online. So why this rant?

I think that these companies have VERY BAD PRIVACY policy. To many companies make you Opt-Out of their sharing of your personal data. Many companies require that you give them a reasonable amount of personal information in order to conduct business. The problem is that they often will turn around and monetize this data by selling your personal information to third party affiliates and non-affiliates.

One example of a company and this process is I am a big baseball fan and I have purchased several products through the site. What does do to such a great customer? They provide my information to third parties. I was somewhat tolerant of this process until recently when I received an email from Bank of America via I have a justifiable intense animosity for Bank of America and their egregious business practices. I immediately clicked the link provided in the email to opt-out of the Bank of America email list. Low and behold the process was broken and I was given an error every time I tried to opt-out. I don't believe that it was intentional by either or Bank of America, but I can tell you it is indicative of Bank of America and their customer service.

Another example of this was a recent letter I received from Santander Consumer USA for a loan that was transferred to them from CitiFinancial Auto. I don't have much control of this process so unless I just pay off the loan ahead of schedule, I am forced to abide by their business policy and privacy policy. Now what Santander Consumer USA is doing is perfectly legal, but that does not make it 'good business'. Santander will (unless you are a resident of California and or Vermont) automatically Opt-in your account. You are required to mail in a form to Santander Consumer USA to opt-out. There is no option via the telephone or online.

I don't know that it is necessary for states to pass new laws, but instead the best-practice of companies should be to opt-out your account and make it easy for users to opt-in. They could market the benefits and let consumers opt-in on their own.

I for one will continue to take my business to companies that automatically opt-out your account (like my local bank) and will avoid companies that continue to monetize my personal informat