Reading the fine print: How to tell if your privacy is really protected


When you start using an app, a website, or when buy something online or in a store, how well do you read the company’s privacy policy? Consumer experts say you may want to take a closer look because a growing number of policies now say if the company changes hands, so can your information.

Realtor Chantay Bridges uses major social media apps and buys materials online to help run her business.

“I use the sites quite frequently,” said Bridges.

But what she did not realize, is some of those companies now have clauses like this in their privacy policies. For example, in the case of a, “new owner… we may transfer your information.”

Experts say that means if the business is sold, data collected about the client, goes too.

“I was extremely shocked,” Bridges said.

Insiders say a growing number of companies now have similar disclosures. Some policies even say your information may be shared with a potential new owner during sales negotiations.

“Data can be a goldmine for companies,” explained attorny Elise Frejka

A data goldmine because some companies collect information about millions of people, experts say, from your name, birth date, address, email, phone number your purchase history and more. That can be pretty valuable in a sale.

“I think it’s a necessary evil in order for an acquiring company or an investor to look at the model of the company and make informed decisions as to what the economics are,” said Frejka.

When a business goes bankrupt your data can also be at risk of being sold. The Federal Trade Commission fought to protect consumer privacy in recent high profile cases to make sure companies were fair to customers.

“Even if a company goes bankrupt, they still need to honor that privacy policy or a regulator like the Federal Trade Commission can step in and say, ‘Wait just a second, if you promise people you would never sell or share the data then you have to live up to that promise,’ ” said Pam Dixon with World Privacy Forum.

Do companies have to notify you if your data is transferred? That answer is also right in the privacy policy.

“It’s really going to depend on that company policy at the time they collected your information,” said Dixon.

Bridges says from now on she is not going to just gloss over privacy policies but will look to see what happens to her data if a company changes hands.

“We take a look at stuff, but we don’t always dig a little deeper and we probably need to look at that a little closer,” she said.

When a business is sold, the new company should alert you of any new privacy policy change concerning your data and remember if you feel uncomfortable with a company’s privacy policy, you can always contact them and tell them you want to “opt out” from them collecting your data. Of course that may mean you cannot use the service anymore as well.

Copyright ©2023 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.