EPIC Seeks to Block ETour Database Sale

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The advocacy group Electronic Privacy Information Center has asked the Federal Trade Commission and the National Association of Attorneys General to investigate and block the sale of eTour customer data to Ask Jeeves.

"We're asking the FTC and the state attorneys general to prevent eTour.com from violating its privacy policy," said Andrew Shen, policy analyst at EPIC, Washington. "ETour.com's privacy policy is very clear that it will never share, sell or transfer information to a third party. However, it did so by selling its assets to Ask Jeeves."

EPIC alleges that the sale of data for 4.5 million registered eTour users violates the eTour privacy policy, which stated that, "eTour will not give out your name, residence address, or e-mail address to any third parties without your permission, for any reason, at any time, ever."

The sale took place May 22 when Ask Jeeves acquired key assets of direct marketing company eTour, including its Web property, delivery engine, a database of 4.5 million registered users and a list of 2.2 million e-mail newsletter subscribers.

Ask Jeeves does not think the sale of the eTour database was improper and claims that it will honor the eTour privacy policy and continue to operate the eTour Web site.

"We intend to use the eTour customer list only to provide the service that those users requested," said Heather Staples, spokeswoman for Ask Jeeves Inc., Emeryville, CA. "Ask Jeeves will e-mail all of the registered users, alerting them to the transaction and giving them the opportunity to opt out."

ETour could not be reached for comment, and Staples said the company is "essentially out of business."

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