We are all familiar with privacy policies on websites, and how they all promise that they will never sell your information to a third-party, and your privacy is of great concern to them etc. etc. But, what happens when that site goes out of bankrupt? How long is that information protected for after a site closes? Where does it go? Have we rushed into this age of social networking only to discover we have left ticking time bombs of our personal data strewn across the Internet to come back and haunt us some day?
These are the exact questions currently being dealt with in the bankruptcy rulings for a now defunct social network for teens called XY.com. The company began as a print magazine that ran from 1996 to 2007 before going under, but it added a social network a few years ago that boasted over 500,000 members at the time it went under in Dec. 2009.
According to CNET, when company founder Peter Ian Cummings filed for personal bankruptcy protection in Feb. 2010, he did so without the benefit of a lawyer. He listed that he currently has no income, a car worth $1500, no home and, oh yeah, a huge database of magazine subscribers and the complete membership information of half-a-million social network members.
Shoshana Schiff, a partner with the Trenk law firm that is involved in this case, told CNET that “Any property listed on the debtor’s bankruptcy petition is property of the bankruptcy estate and my client intends to administer those assets for the benefit of creditors.”
In other words, this thing is a giant mess. The FTC is concerned over privacy in general, but due to this site being involved with minors who are possibly concealing their sexual orientation, and minors in general, it gets even more complicated. (See the whole FTC letter here as a PDF) As a few have suggested around the Web, what if an anti-homosexual group was to purchase the list? Families could find themselves inundated with mail, possible visits to their door depending on the severity of the group and so on.
Moving past XY.com, however, think back across all those social sites you have signed up for. In my work as a tech blogger I have signed up for hundreds of sites, if not thousands. I couldn’t even begin to remember them all, and luckily that means the majority of them I never told them more than my name and e-mail address, but couldn’t that be bad enough? Yes, spam filters work wonders, but they aren’t perfect. Now imagine it is a site I gave personal images to, or items I shared only with “friends” because I was lead to believe only they would see it. Now imagine the site goes bankrupt … I think you’re getting the picture now.
At this time you may think this is only about a site for gay teens, but when you start thinking about possible other impacts, this is indeed a situation that needs to be sorted out as soon as possible.
From my own personal viewpoint, the database should be destroyed. The consumers agreed to XY.com accessing that information, no one else. The CNET article goes on to list all the possible personal lawsuits Mr. Cummings faces if he doesn’t hand over the database, but those are completely separate matters, and I imagine if the FTC says “you can’t do this”, a judge will say, “So, you wanted him to violate federal law to settle his debts … get out of my courtroom.”
In short, our privacy is never assured on the Web, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a site for gay teens or a knitting circle, if the information was given under the presumed protection of privacy, that is the way it should remain in perpetuity.
What say you? What should happen to a user database upon a site’s closing?
The Galaxy S20 Ultra's Space Zoom camera is amazing and a bit creepy
The Galaxy S20 Ultra supports up to 100X zoom, which Samsung calls Space Zoom, but is it any good? Can a phone really product usable photos at 100x zoom? We've got our Galaxy S20 Ultra already so join us to find out!
Win an iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch with the Reader's Choice giveaway!
What's the best phone of 2019? Is it the iPhone 11 Pro, Pixel 4 or OnePlus 7T? What about the best laptop, games console, tablet and more? Vote NOW in the Reader's Choice awards and win BIG in time for the holidays!
Here are the best products from IFA 2019!
Here are the products announced at IFA 2019 that were worthy of our Best of IFA 2019 awards. Also featuring MrMobile's single best product at the show!
Step into your favorite film with a pair of 3D glasses
Experience movies and video games in the most realistic way with a pair of 3D glasses. Our guide has the best to help you narrow down your choice.