Acxiom, JetBlue Respond to Privacy Allegations

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While Acxiom Corp. denied any wrongdoing, JetBlue Airways Corp. said it made a mistake when it provided data to a third-party contractor for a government security project.


In a Sept. 23 letter to the airline's customers, David Neeleman, CEO of Forest Hills, NY-based JetBlue, acknowledged that the firm had disclosed customer names, addresses, telephone numbers and flight information to Torch Concepts Inc. in the summer of 2002 at the request of the U.S. Department of Defense.


However, he also pledged that such a disclosure would not occur again. His statement said in part, "We remain as firmly committed as ever to the goal of making our nation and its skies more secure; however, in hindsight we realize that we made a mistake."


Neeleman went on to say that JetBlue had retained Deloitte & Touche to audit the firm's privacy policy and practices.


Acxiom, Little Rock, AR, admitted providing Torch Concepts, Huntsville, AL, with data for the project, but it maintained in a statement that it had not violated its privacy policy in doing so.


"Acxiom denies the assertion that we violated our privacy policy in relation to the processing we performed for Torch Concepts under contract to the Department of Defense for a Proof of Concept program for the purposes of improving military base security," the statement read in part.


JetBlue has been hit with two class-action lawsuits in California and Utah, and the airline and Acxiom were named in a complaint filed with the Federal Trade Commission Sept. 22 by the Electronic Privacy Information Center. The complaint alleged that the two firms had engaged in deceptive trade practices when they disclosed the data.


Whether the FTC will undertake an investigation is not known, as the agency does not discuss investigations unless it decides to take legal action. It did, however, acknowledge receipt of the complaint.


The American Civil Liberties Union also got involved Sept. 23 when it posted a page on its Web site to allow JetBlue passengers to file Freedom of Information Act requests with the Pentagon to find out whether any of their personal data was divulged, how it was used and whether it was retained, among other things. The page can be found at www.aclu.org/privacy.


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