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RadioShack is selling tens of millions of email and home addresses

RadioShack is selling tens of millions of email and home addresses


The ghost of RadioShack may never leave us

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Among the locations, trademarks, overpriced cables, and other assets that RadioShack is selling off as part of its bankruptcy filing are tens of millions of email addresses, home addresses, and customer names, all of which could end up in the hands of another company. As Bloomberg points out, RadioShack's sale includes over 13 million email addresses and over 65 million customer names and physical addresses. That's a lot of personal data! Standard General, RadioShack's largest shareholder, is reported to have won the bid. But the purchase still has to be approved by a bankruptcy court, and Bloomberg reports that legal challenges may prevent Standard General from taking over the personal data.

Legal challenges could block the data sale

The attorneys general for both Texas and Tennessee are reported to be challenging the purchase. In Texas, it's reportedly a violation of state law to sell identifying information when a company's privacy statement says that it will refrain from doing so. AT&T is also said to be trying to stop the data sale. Bloomberg reports that AT&T worked with RadioShack to market phones and believes that it is the rightful owner of at least some of that data. Selling it off could be problematic for the carrier, particularly if it ended up in the hands of a competitor — and, notably, it might. RadioShack stores will supposedly become shared spaces with Sprint if Standard General's purchase goes through.

The Federal Trade Commission is also interested in preventing personal data from being sold in violation of a privacy statement. Its guidelines, as Bloomberg points out, are a bit different than normal in the case of a bankruptcy because data like this can be a valuable asset. The commission has previously given the conditions that data should be sold among a larger group of assets, that the privacy policy should be maintained, and that the buyer be in the same general line of business. Those all seem as though they could be met by Standard General, particularly if it manages to keep RadioShack's stores open. Chances are, consumers would prefer to see their data go down with RadioShack rather than passed around to another corporate master, but it's looking like there may be a fight over whether that happens.