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Too Much Information

My last issue of Sports Illustrated contained an ad that still haunts me one week later. It's not the content of the ad, it's the personalization that gives me the creeps. Frankly I'm a little pissed about it as well.

In an ad for Ford Genuine Parts & Service (between pages 38 and 39 in the Feb. 16, 2004 edition) there is a custom printed block that reads as follows:

KEVIN AYLWARD BRING YOUR 2002 ESCAPE TO YOUR DEALER FOR THIS SPECIAL SERVICE OFFER NOW!

THE WORKS, $34.95 OR LESS, INCLUDES EXPERT INSPECTION, OIL CHANGE, TIRE ROTATION & MORE! SOME RESTRICTIONS APPLY, SEE YOUR DEALERSHIP FOR COMPLETE DETAILS.

There is no way Time Warner has a record of my automobile purchase history but Ford, obviously, does. Last I checked Ford and Time Warner had not merged, so there's no possibility some master Sports Illustrated database has a record of my auto purchases. Clearly there was a data matching exercise conducted between the Ford customer lists and the SI subscription database.

All I can conclude is that Ford is sharing my customer data with third parties. I'm pretty sure I was never given an opportunity to opt out of this. My quest now is to opt out of Ford sharing my data with third parties which by law they are required to do. Read on to follow my journey.

Responses

This section is a running summary of my quest for information on how this ad was created and whether my data privacy rights and/or federal law were violated in the process.

Ford: A confused customer service rep denied that Ford provided the data and said I should contact SI. She could not provide phone numbers to Media Relations or Advertising.

Sports Illustrated: A knowledgeable customer service rep told me that she had got a memo on the Ford ad. The content of the ad was a special promotion as a result of their partnership with Ford. The information definitely came from Ford, she said and she offered to remove the customization.

Ford: I found a human, though I've yet to be able to speak to him. His name is Brian Kelley, Ford Motor Co.'s group vice president of global consumer services and North America. Here's what he has to say on Fords privacy policies in an industry publication (Wards Dealers Business):

The customer, however, is still very uncertain about the third area that involves the sharing of data across the Ford Motor Co. brands says Mr. Kelley. "We would never share the information with anyone outside the company, but we could within the company if the customer lets us."

Government regulations also are responding to consumer complaints. Legislation already is on the books that could determine how and what information gets shared.

The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which went into effect on July 1, dictates that consumers must be given the opportunity to opt out of having their information shared or sold to outside companies.

I forgot all about Gramm-Leach-Bliley. Under that law dealers must offer customers the opportunity to opt-out of information sharing with non-affiliated third parties. The law calls for dealers - and others - to disclose to customers the dealerships' privacy policies, categories and type of information shared and the companies it's shared with beforehand. It's worth noting that Ford customer service representatives have no information on how to allow a consumer to "opt-out" of anything, nearly three years after this law passed.

Next contact will be the dealer, then the office of Mr. Kelley (oops - he's long gone)...


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Comments (9)

Yikes! That's downright sca... (Below threshold)
Jess:

Yikes! That's downright scary. I'm looking forward to seeing Ford's response.

On an unrelated note, I'd be inclined to think that such an advertisement would be cost prohibitive, but I guess it's not.

I used to get these type of... (Below threshold)

I used to get these type of ads with Time Magazine. Basically, they have blank spaces on certain pages of the magazine, and then spray in the names after the pages are printed. Creeped me out too, but I just canceled my subscription.

I don't think it was an auto ad, though.

Kevin - thanks for posting ... (Below threshold)
Tom:

Kevin - thanks for posting this - I'm looking into the details behind this, as I'm somewhat familiar with the advertising abilities that are out there.

This is really not something new, as I've been getting SI for about ten years and have seen these a ton of times. But I've never seen merged lists - so you've got me interested. I'll keep you posted if I find out anything further, as I've already contacted the company I believe put the ad together.

This and/or any followup wo... (Below threshold)

This and/or any followup would be interesting CotC fodder...

It's only in your SI, isn't... (Below threshold)

It's only in your SI, isn't it? It's not a national Kevin Aylward ad.

Or at least, I hope not.

Nopr, SI confirmed it's jus... (Below threshold)

Nopr, SI confirmed it's just my copy. It's printed in that form letter You've Just Won... type.

I work in marketing for a l... (Below threshold)
Fritz:

I work in marketing for a large hospital. Strict privacy laws for healthcare providers (HIPAA Privacy Rule) went into effect last April. Healthcare organizations can't use private patient information for marketing or fundraising purposes -- no opt in either. The penalties are huge fines and prison time.

I think similar laws should be enacted for banks and private companies like Ford and SI who have access to our personal information. Why is sharing information about someone's medical treatment and the type of car they own treated differently?

A hospital can't send you a mailer for a new cancer treatment based on your medical history. Why should targeting you based on your auto purchase be allowed?

Okay, so what I thought thi... (Below threshold)
Tom:

Okay, so what I thought this ad *was*, it *isn't*. So I'm barking up a different tree now. Did you have any more luck figuring how how Ford got this to SI, and what SI is saying about it?

SI said it's a promotion wi... (Below threshold)

SI said it's a promotion with Ford based on their "partnership". That they where partners was news to me, but I imaging they consider any advertiser a partner.

I sent this to my dealer demanding an answer as to who disclosed my data and where their opt-out policy is. No reply yet.




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