My 4/12/09 Missoulian column
Are you in? Or did you opt out? When you sign up for a service – cable TV, cell phone, almost anything online – you give a certain amount of information to that company to open an account: name, address, email, phone and more.
Businesses need that account information, of course, but part of the value of a customer’s information is in sharing it with other companies and affiliates. And somewhere in the fine print you signed or clicked is the decision you made about sharing or not sharing your information.
It’s called “opting in” or “opting out.” You might not even know what you agreed to do, depending on the fine print of the agreement. Opting in means you have an agreement with the company that you must explicitly give permission to that company to share or sell your information to other companies or affiliates.
Opting out means that you have to go to the company proactively and tell them not to sell your information to other companies and affiliates. They can sell or distribute your information with the “default permission” you already gave them.
All this leads to the blog I stumbled on a few weeks ago about Verizon Wireless requiring cell phone customers to opt out of information sharing. The blogger, David Weinberger, read the thick mailing from Verizon and discovered he needed to opt out of information sharing, and the way to opt out was buried on Verizon’s Web site.
Weinberger, author of several books including the “Cluetrain Manifesto” — blogged about how angry — with good reason, I think — it made him to have to tell Verizon not to share. Read Weinberger’s blog and readers’ responses.
The New York Times picked up the story and the article said, “It is easier to seek forgiveness than it is to get permission according to Verizon, which has once again shown us what large corporations should not be doing when it comes to customer service.”
If you’re uncomfortable with information sharing, take a minute and call Verizon at 1-800-333-9956 and opt out. You can also opt out online in your Verizon account, and I did last week, but when I called the number this week, I had to opt out again.
Verizon claims that the information sharing is only with company affiliates and does not include names and phone numbers because “we are keeping all the data in question in the family – unless you tell us not to.” Enough said.
To me, common sense dictates that you should give your permission to a company to share information. That company should not -by default – share that information without getting a permission.
Mac Q-and-A: More about Disk Utility.