Opt Out of This (If You Can)

I’m going to let you in on a little secret about me, but I don’t want you to tell anyone. OK, maybe you’ll tell your friends, but they’re not allowed to do anything with this information.

I really don’t care about privacy online.

Did I recently reserve a hotel using a credit card through an Indian Web site I never heard of? Sure! Did I read the privacy policy? Of course not!

Did I recently fill out a form on a Sri Lankan hotel Web site, giving my name, credit card number, and address? Absolutely! Did I read the privacy policy? Um…. Nope!

I’m clearly willing to float my personal and financial information all over the Internet with little thought to what ultimately happens to my data. So long, Amex number!

Then why am I so annoyed about Ticketmaster’s privacy policy?

As Direct Magazine’s Curmudgeon-At-Large columnist Herschell Gordon Lewis recently pointed out, Ticketmaster has a privacy policy that’s absolutely perfect for people like me (until I actually read Ticketmaster’s policy) who don’t care what happens to my personal information.

Ticketmaster unapologetically shares your email address with others, who can then go and send you unsolicited email (or, as most of us call it nowadays, spam). And you thought your service charge wasn’t buying you anything. Buy from Ticketmaster online, and you’ll get spammed.

How so? Let’s take a look:

Venues, promoters, bands, teams, leagues and others (“Event Providers”) produce and bring you events. When you use the Site to order tickets (or to register while attempting to order Tickets), instead of providing your information directly to Event Providers, you provide your contact information to Ticketmaster who may then pass that information on to the Event Providers on your behalf. This will allow Event Providers to contact you using the email address or other contact information you provided.

What Ticketmaster is saying is it’s just the middleman. It takes your money and passes it on to the company producing the event. Minus the service charge, of course. It passes your information on to the company producing the event. Those people can then contact you.

But wait. What if I don’t want to be contacted by the New York Yankees (which, as a life-long Red Sox fan, is certainly the case)? Ah yes, there’s remedy:

If, before we provide your contact information to an Event Provider, you request not to receive promotional emails from Ticketmaster, then we will pass that request on to the Event Provider. Nonetheless, because Event Providers are not part of Ticketmaster, Event Providers are not subject to this privacy policy and may still use your contact information to communicate with you by sending emails or through other means, and may share your contact information with others.

If I don’t want to receive email for Ticketmaster, I just let it know. But that doesn’t mean I’ve opted out of getting email from event providers. In other words, Ticketmaster says we won’t spam you, but our partners will. And, as a special bonus, these partners may then share your information with their partners, who may then spam you.

Surely there must be some way out of this spam cycle:

If you want to learn about a particular Event Provider’s privacy policies, or you do not want to receive communications from a particular Event Provider, or you have other questions, instructions or concerns to which you would like an Event Provider to respond, then you must contact that Event Provider directly.

I wish you the best of luck reaching the data privacy department for Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. (Actually, after writing that snooty comment, I found Ringling Brothers’ privacy policy. It says they “never provide [personal] information to a third party unless you provide us with specific permission to do so.” So take that!) In any case, it’s quite an effort in many cases to track down the event provider, let alone figure out who manages their privacy policies.

Ticketmaster’s privacy policy also notes merchants who sell products on Ticketmaster’s site are not subject to their privacy policy, allowing they “may use your contact information to communicate with you by sending emails or through other means, and may share your contact information with others.” Again, merchant partners may end up spamming you.

In light of the more stringent privacy laws California recently passed, I expect companies will take privacy more seriously. If you think Ticketmaster isn’t taking your privacy seriously, it says it welcomes your comments. Write to legal@ticketmaster.com. And let me know what they say. I promise to keep your email address to myself.

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