Open Letter To Data Brokers Are A Bunch Of Idiots Or Current Business

from the data-brokers-or-broken-data? dept

Attention world: there is a problem growing and something must be done about it! Some weeks back, a story about OfficeMax sending out a letter to a customer that was addressed to "Daughter Killed in Car Crash or Current Business."

The recipient, Mike Seay of Chicago, was understandably upset, having indeed lost his daughter to a car accident the previous year. It went viral in a big way, leading many to ask how that kind of thing could even happen. In a move that may have been heavy on honesty and light on an understanding of the public relations issues it would create, OfficeMax insisted that the issue was with the 3rd party data broker that had provided them the list of recipients for this letter.
“The mailing list OfficeMax requested from the third-party provider was for Businesses, Small Offices and Home Offices,” says OfficeMax spokesperson Karen Denning by email. “NO personal information qualifiers were part of our request; we were not seeking personal information and did not ask for it. As an additional measure to prevent future mailing errors, we have upgraded the filters designed to flag inappropriate information.”
Note what they're saying. They're saying that they hadn't requested personal information for this mailing list. They are not saying that the data broker does not have that information, nor are they saying that they have not, or never will, request such information. This only made readers of the story ask even more questions about who has what data on them and how that data is used in business.
Without more information about what exactly happened here, we’re left to assume that there are data brokers keeping track of parents with dead kids and that someone put an entry into the wrong spreadsheet cell, accidentally listing Seay’s tragedy in the column designated for the name of his business.
On its own, the explanation that a telemarketer might note that there was a car death to denote sensitivity in sales might have sated most of the public. But, like I said: epidemic. Or at least the start of one, now that we have a similar story, one that might not be quite so easy to explain.
On Thursday, freelance writer Lisa McIntire's mother received a credit card offer from Bank of America sort of addressed to her daughter. There was one tiny difference, though, in the name; instead of Lisa McIntire, the letter was addressed to a "Lisa Is a Slut McIntire." McIntire's mother contacted her daughter via text and then sent a series of photos. McIntire, of course, was slightly disturbed and took to Twitter to share the unusual junk mail.
Now, look, I like a good insult perhaps more than the average person. On top of that, gratuitous vulgarity is the kind of thing that really gets my trousers off. That said, were I Lisa McIntire, I'd be damned before I'd allow Bank of America, noted promiscuous deceivers on mortgages, to call me a slut. I expect we'll get another explanation that has something to do with a data broker either pulling information from social media or Google searches, or else behaving badly and denoting random people as sluts, but that won't solve the problem. People might finally begin to understand just how much personal information, or information about them, is out there and how companies are using it. Expect the grandstanding to begin shortly.

Filed Under: data brokers, mailings, marketing
Companies: bank of america, office max

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  1. identicon
    Indy, 7 Feb 2014 @ 2:20pm


    There's irony in that from the picture you posted you can determine exactly where the McIntire's live. The zip+4 tells exactly the location.

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