phone records for sale.

leichter_jerrold at leichter_jerrold at
Mon Jan 9 10:55:50 EST 2006

| 18 USC 2702(c) says
| 	A provider described in subsection (a) may divulge a record or
| 	other information pertaining to a subscriber to or customer of
| 	such service (not including the contents of communications
| 	covered by subsection (a)(1) or (a)(2)) ...
| 	(6) to any person other than a governmental entity.
| The first time I read that last clause, I couldn't believe it; I
| actually went and looked up the legislative history.  I found that
| Congress wanted to permit sale for marketing or financial reasons, but
| wanted to limit the power of the government.  (The Supreme Court had
| ruled previously that individuals had no expectation of privacy for
| phone numbers they'd dialed, since they were being given voluntarily to
| a third party -- the phone company.)
Where two parties exchange information voluntarily, deciding who ought to
control of what can get ... interesting.  Here's a more complex case:  
Vendors have long claimed the right use their own customer lists for
purposes.  But suppose you buy using a credit card.  Then information about 
your purchase is known not just to you and the vendor you dealt with, but
credit card company (construed broadly - there's the issuing bank, the 
vendor's bank, various clearing houses...).  Can the credit card company use

the same information for marketing - selling, say, a list of a vendor's 
customers who used a credit card to the vendor's competitors?  The same 
vendors who claim that you have no right to tell them what they can do with 
the transaction information incidental to you doing business with them make
very different set of arguments when its "their" information being sold by 
someone else.

This issue came up a number of years ago, but I haven't heard anything
about it.  I'm not sure how it came out - the credit card companies may have
decided to back off because the profit wasn't worth the conflicts.  We're in
the midst of battles, not yet resolved as far as I know, about whether a
search engine can let company A put ads up in reponse to searches for
competitor company B.  Can an ISP sell lists of people who visited
from among their customers to GM?

Information doesn't want to be free - in today's economy, information wants
be charged for everywhere, from everyone.
							-- Jerry

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