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Found at: 0x1bi.net:70/textfiles/file?law/lotus.txt

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******* IMPORTANT ******** THIS IS *VERY* IMPORTANT ******* PLEASE READ *****
 
Date:    26 Nov 90 13:57:58 +0000
>From:    rsalz@bbn.com (Rich Salz)
Subject: National Lotus Database
 
Lotus Development Corporation has a new product due out in 1991, called
"Household Marketplace."  It's a database on CDROM.  It has the estimated
income and a profile of the buying habits of 120 million US residents.
That's a high percentage of the US population -- the odds are pretty good
that YOU are in the Lotus database.
 
A Lotus spokesman has said that the company is concerned about privacy
issues, so to help prevent misuse of the data only legitimate businesses
can get the disk.  With easy access to a laser printer, a POBox, and/or a
fax machine, however, it is hard to see how Lotus can determine the
legitimacy of anyone, however, and I'm sure that with minor effort almost
anyone will be able to purchase Marketplace.  The cost, by the way, is
under $1000 with quarterly updates available.
 
The database does not contain any of the data covered by the Fair Credit
Practices Act so Lotus is under no legal obligation to let you see what
they are saying about you.  In fact, during interviews they have said that
there is NO WAY for an individual to review their personal data, nor are
there any provisions to make corrections on what is recorded.
 
Lotus will remove anyone from their database who writes to them.
Send a letter to:
 
    Lotus Development Corp.
    Attn:  Market Name Referral Service
    55 Cambridge Parkway
    Cambridge, MA 02142
 
 
 
------- End of Forwarded Message
 
 
 
>From:	RGB::SEILER "Larry Seiler, 225-4077, HL2-1/J12  12-Dec-1990 1144"
 
------- Forwarded Message
 
Subj:	Confirmation of Lotus' plan to sell data on individuals --
	including income estimates and addresses
 
Folks,
 
I recently forwarded a message about a new Lotus product -- a database
on CDROM of 120M US residents with their estimated incomes and buying
profiles.  Someone questioned whether Lotus is really doing this, so
I checked by calling Lotus and speaking to someone in pre-sales service.
 
It really is true.  Lotus is still gearing up to sell their "Household
Marketplace" product, and it really does give information on individual
people, not just regional statistical summaries.  I learned the following
(and I asked for literature, so I'll soon know even more):
 
    1)	Yes, it really *DOES* have names and addresses of individuals.
 
    2)	They have divided up the database by regions, and you specify
	the region you are interested in when you buy the product.
	That explains how they could have 120M people in their database
	and still sell you just 1 CD (or a few) for your purchase price.
 
    3)	They also have a "Business Marketplace" CD with data on 7 million
	US businesses.
 
I forebore yelling at the sales-type who handled my call, merely asking if
there was a place to write with comments about the service.  Apparently
the sales types haven't heard of the controversy the product is raising,
since she replied that several different reports can be generated by the
product, and some of them do have space for comments.
 
GREAT!  So not only do they have the audacity to print an estimate of your
income (which could be quite damaging if they get it wrong, and is an
intrusion into your privacy if they get it right), they also have space
on the disk for arbitrary comments about you -- and they'll be selling
this data in volume to mass marketing companies across the country!
 
In interviews, Lotus has said that individuals will NOT be able to correct
their own entries, or even see what they are.  I didn't try to confirm
this in my call to Lotus, but I did confirm that the person who reported
it -- Rich Salz of BBN -- has an excellent reputation on the internet.
Also, everything he said that I checked with Lotus is absolutely accurate.
Further, the Wall Street Journal has reported on it -- saying that the
database has ages, marital status, and other such personal data as well.
 
So I believe it, and you should to, since it is going to affect your life.
Remember -- a database of 120 million US residents comes to almost half
the people in the country.  Considering that the database is probably
biased toward those with higher incomes, the chances are *really good*
that anyone able to electronically read this message is in the database.
 
What can you do about it?  A couple of things.  Lotus has said that they'll
omit from their database anyone who asks.  Therefore, start by writing to
the address below.  Tell them that you don't want to be in the database,
and tell them exactly what you think of their database.  I've appended a
copy of my letter to Lotus for an example.
 
Second, pass this message along to anyone whom you think might care.  To
me, this is not just a matter of privacy.  Lotus is going to sell information
behind our backs -- we are not allowed to dispute their data or even know
what it is.  Worse, Lotus is going to sell rumors about our income.  Still
worse, they will do it on a scale never before achieved.  This should not
be tolerated.  Please help to stop Lotus.
 
	Thanks,
	Larry Seiler
 
 
Write to:
      Lotus Development Corp.
      Attn:  Market Name Referral Service
      55 Cambridge Parkway
      Cambridge, MA 02142
 
 
Here's my letter.  Also send copies of your letter to the president and the
CEO of Lotus, if you want to let those at the highest levels know that you
are displeased with their product.  I've also appended a net copy of the
Wall Street Journal artical about it.
 
 
                                                198 Linden Street
                                                Boylston, MA 01505
                                                December 6, 1990
 
     Lotus Development Corp.
     Attn:  Market Name Referral Service
     55 Cambridge Parkway
     Cambridge, MA 02142
 
 
     Dear Marketeers,
 
          I do not want my name included in your "Household Marketplace"
     CDROM database, nor that of anyone in my family, at any address I have
     ever lived at.  To be specific, please make sure that the following
     entries are **NOT** included in your database:
 
        any last name (especially Seiler, Schmidt, Poffenberger, or Zwerner)
        at 198 Linden Street, Boylston MA
 
        any Seiler family name
        at 53 Oak Street, Waltham MA
 
        any Seiler family name
        at 77 Reed Road, Hudson MA
 
 
          As you have it set up, I think your "Household Marketplace" CDROM
     database is an incredible intrusion and ought to be illegal.  I am a
     computer professional, so this opinion is not based on any native
     dislike of computers or databases.  The problems I have with your
     proposed service involve the way in which you plan to administer it,
     the way in which the data will almost certainly be used, the type of
     data you are including, and my conviction that you will vigorously
     seek to avoid responsibility for errors in your database.
 
          First, administration.  I have heard that you are not providing
     any means to correct errors in your database.  The potential for long
     term damage to individuals from use of your database is therefore
     enormous.  Even if an individual knows that your database is false,
     users of your database will almost certainly believe the CDROM data in
     spite of any disclaimers or evidence offered by the individual.
 
          Second, use of data.  Given the fact that law enforcement
     agencies are nearly powerless to shut down obviously illegal
     boiler-room businesses, it is absurd for you to claim that you will
     only provide the data to legitimate businesses.  You won't be able to
     prevent your product from being used to defraud individuals by huge
     numbers of illegal operations.  One way or another, essentially any
     business who wants your database will be able to get it -- and it will
     be of special value to illegal and borderline businesses.
 
 
                                                                Page 2
 
 
          Third, type of data.  I understand that you plan to publish
     "income estimates".  There is no legal way for you to verify income,
     unless an individual voluntarily provides that information.  (I never
     do, except when the data is legally required to be held in
     confidence.) It is absolutely unacceptable for you to publish what
     amount to rumors about people's income.  The possibilities for abuse
     are tremendous.
 
          Fourth, responsibility.  I understand that you will not permit
     individuals to find out what information you are spreading about them.
     The only likely reason for this is that you don't want anyone to find
     out that your information about them is false.  Therefore, while you
     will sell this product on the basis of providing reliable information,
     you aren't prepared to be responsible for the accuracy of your
     information, or for the damage that false information (or even true
     information) might cause.
 
          So as you see, my concerns about your product are not primarily
     about privacy, although privacy is involved.  If you were prepared to
     take responsibility for the accuracy of your information, then I would
     be willing to accept your service.  For example, you could send copies
     of the data entries to *each* individual in your database, with a
     request to write back if any of the data is incorrect or if they want
     to be removed from your listing.  If you did this, and *made* the
     requested corrections, then I would feel that you were providing a
     positive service, rather than making abusive use of unverified data.
 
          In conclusion, if you market this product, it is my sincere hope
     that you are sued by every person for whom your data is false, with
     the eventual result that your company goes bankrupt.  That would be a
     pity, since you make many fine products.  However, that is preferable
     to permitting you to spread rumors and encourage abusive business
     practices.  It would be better if your chief officers went to jail,
     but that will apparently require new laws to be passed.  If you
     persist in your plans to market this product, a lot of people will be
     pushing to make that happen.  I suggest that you abandon this project
     while there is time to do so.
 
 
 
                                                Yours most sincerely,
 
 
 
 
                                                Larry Seiler
 
 
 Lotus - New program spurs fears privacy could be undermined
	{The Wall Street Journal, 13-Nov-90, p. B1}
   Privacy advocates are raising the alarm about a new Lotus product that lists
 names, addresses, shopping habits and likely income levels for some 80 million
 U.S. households. Due for release early next year, Lotus Marketplace packs the
 data on palm-sized compact disks aimed at small and mid-sized businesses that
 want to do inexpensive, targeted direct-mail marketing. But critics say the
 product is just too good. "It's going to change the whole ball game," says
 Mary Culnan, an associate professor at Georgetown University's School of
 Business Administration. "This is a big step toward people completely losing
 control of how, and by whom, personal information is used." Janlori Goldman, a
 staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, adds that the product
 raises "serious legal and ethical questions." Lotus' critics concede that the
 product offers little more than is already available from established
 mailing-list brokers. But they say it is a greater potential threat to personal
 privacy because of its low cost, ease of use and lack of effective safeguards
 over who ultimately has access to it and why. They also say that the way it is
 designed allows users to ask a series of increasingly specific questions about
 small subgroups of people - identifying, for example, unmarried, wealthy
 women over 65 in a neighborhood. "They've crossed the line," says Marc
 Rotenberg, Washington director for the nonprofit Computer Professionals for
 Social Responsibility. "It simply shouldn't be allowed on the market." Lotus
 counters that the product, still under development, has been tailored to
 address privacy concerns. No phone numbers will be included, it won't be
 available in retail stores and it will be sold only to "legitimate businesses"
 at verified addresses checked against a "fraud file," Lotus says. A contract
 will specifically limit its use and provide penalties for abuses. Owners will
 be be allowed unlimited use of the names and addresses they buy, at a cost of
 $695 initially for the program plus 5,0000 names and $400 for each additional
 5,000 names.
 
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