FTC Requests Protections For Valuable RadioShack Customer Data

Give RadioShack credit, the iconic electronics chain lasted nearly a century and survived part of the Internet era before ultimately filing for bankruptcy. However, the chain's impressive 94-year run doesn't give it a free pass to treat customer data like an asset, or so that's the stance the Federal Trade Commission is taking.

The FTC sent a letter (PDF) to the court appointed consumer privacy ombudsman in RadioShack's case. In the letter, FTC direct Jessica L. Rich notes that RadioShack is in possession of personal information for over 117 million customers, information that includes names, addresses (billing and shipping), telephone numbers, email addresses, credit or debit card numbers, and purchase histories.

Image Source: Flickr (Nicholas Eckhart)

"Agents, employees and contractors of RadioShack who have access to personally identifiable information are required to protect this information in a manner that is consistent with this Privacy Policy and the high standards of the corporation," Lich stated in the letter.

One of the entries in RadioShack's privacy policies states that it will "not sell or rent your personally identifiable information to anyone at any time." Lich bolded the entry for emphasis, as well as other similar privacy claims displayed on RadioShack signage.

There's past precedent for the FTC to support its argument that RadioShack shouldn't be allowed to sell customer data. One of those is FTC v. Toysmart, in which the Commission sued an online toy retailer that filed for bankruptcy and attempted to auction the personal information in collected from customers.

Apple is on the FTC's side. On Friday, Apple filed a complaint in a Delaware court to block the sale of customer data as it contains personally identifiable information collected from selling iPhones and iPads.

“The Reseller Agreement between Apple and RadioShack protects information collected by RadioShack regarding purchasers of Apple products (the 'Apple Customer Information') and prohibits the proposed sale of such information," Apple stated.

This seems like a pretty cut and dry case to us, though we'll have to wait and see how it turns out.