Remember RadioShack? At one time there was no better place to buy your electronics or electronic equipment. They had it all, from amplifiers to circuit boards. Ahh, those were the good old days.
Now the chain of electronic stores is slowly dying and has filed for bankruptcy. For years, RadioShack asked those strange questions like your name, address and phone number to buy batteries. Now, as part of bankruptcy proceedings, the electronics retailer has auctioned that data to the highest bidder. This database includes names, email addresses and phone numbers of almost anybody who has purchased something at RadioShack. By some estimates that adds up to about 100 million people.
And the winner is; Standard General . A hedge fund and RadioShack’s largest shareholder. But not so fast! Before Standard General can take possession of the data a bankruptcy court has to approve the sale.
The problem is that RadioShack has to overcome some legal hurdles before turning over customer data. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is opposing the sale of the data because it would be illegal under Texas law. Texas doesn’t permit companies to sell personal information if it violates that companies own privacy policies. This appears to be exactly what Radio Shack is doing. You can find signs in their stores that clearly state;”We pride ourselves on not selling our private mailing list.” Paxton estimates that this data sale would affect 117 million people.
This case has created some strange bedfellows. AT&T has argued that it wants the data destroyed for its own competitive reasons. AT&T is opposed to the sale because it does not believe RadioShack is entitled to the personal information it collected from wireless sales. AT&T is primarily concerned that the mountain of data might fall into a competitors hands. According to Bloomberg one bidder for the data has suggested that RadioShack become co-branded as Sprint stores.
But again; not so fast. A 2000 FTC lawsuit stopped a bankrupt Toysmart.com from selling its customer database. The database was eventually destroyed.
Breaking It Down
Everyone who has ever bought something from RadioShack needs to be aware of this. I see a problem when it comes to having my name, address and other information sold like any other asset of a bankrupt company and here’s why? First of all its my information and I’m not getting a cut of the pie. I personally think that a lot of information sales would cease if one nasty lawyer decided to file a class action lawsuit demanding a price for information sold from its original collector. The deal would work like this. If I decided to give you my information with the understanding that you have assured me that you would not sell it then we have an agreement. That is what RadioShack did. Now RadioShack has decided to sell the information violating our agreement. So where is my share of the money?
If your information is in RadioShack’s database, and there are plenty of black people who shop at “The Shack”, then you need to be concerned. If that data base is sold then you can expect to have an increase in direct mail advertisements, spam, cold calls and everything else that comes with loose information. I guarantee you that once Standard General takes possession of this database they will cut, slice and categorize the information and sell it in chunks to the highest bidder. You get annoyed, they get the cash.