Sports Authority, a retail chain of sporting goods stores, recently filed for bankruptcy and sold off all of their assets. One of the highest bids was for their name, e-commerce site and customer data, bought by rival Dick’s Sporting Goods for $15 million. In contrast, a package of several store leases went for only $8 million and naming rights to Sports Authority Field, also known as Mile High Stadium, home of the Denver Broncos, is still on the auction block. It appears that customer information is the new desired capital, but what does that say about our privacy and the use of our personal information? Is it truly for sale to the highest bidder? Did we actually agree to that?
With value on customer data comes responsibility to customers who have disclosed their information and expect at least a minimum of privacy and discretion. Privacy advocates are watching these developments closely. They are concerned that the new owners will not adhere to the original privacy agreement and will use the customer information in ways not originally agreed upon.
Let me know your thoughts on buying and selling customer information. It is not a new idea. I have received solicitations from car dealers for years based on information available from the division of motor vehicles. What is new is how easy it is to collect, buy, and sell this information and the amount of associated customer information collected, which can be put up for sale to the highest bidder.
Kelly Brown is an IT professional and assistant professor of practice for the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.