RadioShack's demise left techies with one place to buy gizmos and their information on the auction block: Customer data that the retailer collected over decades was among the assets for sale to the higher bidder as part of RadioShack's bankruptcy.
The move drew objections from dozens of state attorneys general and companies like AT&T and Apple, which partnered with the retailer to market their products. And now the government's privacy watchdog, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), has weighed in with a letter to court-appointed consumer privacy ombudsman in the bankruptcy case.
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"We understand that RadioShack's customer information constitutes a potentially valuable asset," FTC Consumer Protection Director Jessica Rich wrote in the May 16 letter. "We are concerned, however, that a sale or transfer of the personal information of RadioShack's customers would contravene RadioShack's express promise not to sell or rent such information and could constitute a deceptive or unfair practice under Section 5 of the FTC Act."
Hedge fund Standard General, which bought hundreds of RadioShack's store leases this spring, led the bidding for the now defunct retailer's brand name along with other intellectual property including the customer data trove. But the deal still must be approved by a Delaware bankruptcy court. A hearing for the process is set for later this week.
"The firm has been working with the state attorneys general to ensure that the customer data is protected, and has committed to maintain RadioShack's strict privacy policies," a Standard General spokesman told the Post.
The FTC isn't asking the court to kill the deal, but it is recommending conditions it argues could help consumers' privacy. For instance, the FTC wants the data to be sold as part of a larger deal, not as a standalone asset.