It looks like that cheap cassette adaptor I bought for my first iPhone and that universal remote for all my TV gadgets at RadioShack in the last ten years may come back to haunt me.
If you’re like me and you’ve shopped at RadioShack within the last several years, your personal information may be included in the sale of all of the failed electronics retailer’s assets in an auction that concluded Monday of this week.
The sale also includes Radio Shack trademarks, patents, leases, and the court presiding over the matter will likely decide whether Radio Shack can continue its retail operations at a smaller scale.
The reported winner of the bid, Standard General, is also RadioShack’s largest shareholder, making this an odd one. The winning bid still needs to be approved by a bankruptcy judge, who will have to consider the pending legal challenges to this sale.
Like, for example, whether a retailer that bragged, “We pride ourselves on not selling our private mailing list,” can sell them once bankrupt.
The Attorney General’s office in Texas (and in Tenessee), for example, are challenging the sale. It’s illegal in Texas to sell personal data if the company’s privacy statement says it won’t. In addition, Bloomberg is reporting that AT&T wants to stop the sale because — ironically — it believes that it is actually the owner of at least some of that data.
Heck, even the Federal Trade Commission may have a problem with the sale. The FTC’s issue isn’t necessarily the same as the state or corporate interests in the case, but rather because this kind of personal data can be valuable. The FTC has made it clear in the past with other similar bankruptcy proceedings that any privacy policies should be maintained and that the buyer of any such assets should be in the same sort of business as the company it buys the data from. It’s possible the FTC would allow Standard General the data, especially if it wants to continue with a limited set of retail RadioShack stores.
Surely most customers would rather have that data go away along with RadioShack, but the powerful corporate interests here would have it otherwise. Because of course they would.