Spitzer Reaches Internet Privacy Agreement With Altavista
Attorney General Spitzer today announced an agreement that ensures that one of the Internet's most popular websites will not disclose private information about its users to other companies.
AltaVista has agreed to enhance its privacy protections and disclosures and to pay the state of New York $70,000. In the future, should AltaVista ever decide to disclose information collected from consumers to third parties, it must inform consumers prior to collection not only of such disclosure, but also of the identities of the third parties to whom it may provide the information. AltaVista also confirmed that the company has upgraded its software to prevent any future unintended transfers of information about its users.
The privacy issue at AltaVista surfaced last year in connection with the company's popular Yellow Pages directory, which is visited by millions of users searching for information about businesses and services near their home or work address. In order to narrow the search for business listings, consumers were asked to provide their home addresses to AltaVista, and were given assurances that the information would not be disclosed to any third parties. However, a programming error caused the information to be inadvertently exposed to a third party company.
AltaVista did not profit from the data transfer and there is no evidence that the third party company used the information that it inadvertently received.
The agreement with AltaVista follows several recent privacy-related actions taken by the Attorney General with such leading Internet companies as InfoBeat and Toysmart. In each case, the Attorney General's office achieved greater levels of privacy protection for consumers.
The AltaVista case was handled by Ken Dreifach, Chief of Spitzer's Internet Bureau. Attorney General Spitzer also acknowledged the assistance of Internet security expert Richard Smith in conducting the investigation.