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Ticketmaster's Privacy Policy: Opting Out is Not an Option

By Ed Foster, Section Columns
Posted on Thu Jul 24th, 2003 at 08:44:35 AM PDT
Read the original article on Ed Fosters website at this address: Click Here

While privacy policies rarely put many restraints on the vendor's right to share your information with others, you can usually opt out from having your info shared too widely. One reader recently spotted an exception to this; one that means my contact information and yours may be in greater circulation than we knew.

The reader had become annoyed with the amount of promotional e-mails he'd been getting from Ticketmaster ever since he'd purchased concert tickets at ticketmaster.com. In the process of opting out of their e-mail "newsletter," the reader examined Ticketmaster's privacy policy and was struck by this section:

 

"By purchasing a ticket, or completing a registration form so that you are able to access a purchase page for a ticket, to a concert, game or other event on the Site, you consent (i.e., you opt-in) to us sharing your personal information with the venues, promoters, artists, teams, leagues and other third parties associated with that concert, game or other event ("Event Partners"). We cannot offer you a separate opportunity to opt-out, or not to consent, to our sharing of your personal information with them. Event Partners may use your personal information in accordance with their own privacy policies, and may consequently use your personal information to contact you and may share your personal information with others. You will need to contact those Event Partners who contact you to instruct them directly regarding your preferences for the use of your personal information by them."

In other words, Ticketmaster's "Event Partners" get a nice little dossier on each customer including name, street address, email address and telephone number. (Credit card numbers are only shared with Event Partners in special circumstances, the Ticketmaster privacy policy says.) And customers has no way of knowing which of these partners are getting this information, or stopping them from passing it on to others. "That's what is particularly odious about this, since they themselves say it could be venues, promoters, bands, etc...a potentially huge list of organizations."

This reader did a good job of sounding the alarm in as many quarters as possible, so Ticketmaster had a prepared statement ready when I contacted them. Ticketmaster's partners "have both the desire and the need to receive information about the consumers who purchase tickets for their entertainment offerings," read the statement, which was attributed to Kerry Samovar, Ticketmaster's chief privacy officer. "Therefore Ticketmaster has a very clear privacy policy that covers the sharing of that information. Our clients, for whom we sell tickets, use the information to help fulfill the ticket orders and may use it to contact the consumer. Please remember that we are the legal 'agent' of these parties; we are selling tickets on their behalf. They are completely separate companies, and how they use the information is based on their respective policies... For those consumers that wish to remain as anonymous as possible, in an increasingly less anonymous world, we recommend that they buy their tickets through more traditional means, such as venue box offices or Ticketmaster's more than 3,500 retail ticket centers."

As I read that statement, I couldn't help but think about some of the times I've purchased tickets through Ticketmaster, and some of the "Event Partners" who may therefore know a lot about me. After all, event promoters in sports and entertainment aren't always the most trustworthy of folks. And I believe some of the artists I bought tickets for my son to see are in jail now - do you suppose they're trading my contact information with their cellmates for cigarettes? Under Ticketmaster's privacy policy, they would certainly have the right to do so.

Am I exaggerating the dangers in this? Perhaps, but with identify theft now one of the most common of crimes, I really don't want to take the chance. But I, like the reader, don't know for sure which Ticketmaster partners -- or partners of Ticketmaster partners -- now have my information, and I have no way of stopping them from selling it to others.

Ticketmaster says they're just functioning as an "agent" for those clients who have "the desire and the need" to collect all this information about us. It's an odd kind of agent relationship though, since we only get to know the agent's privacy policies and we can't even be sure who and how many clients are getting this open-ended access to our information.

We are indeed living in an increasingly less anonymous world, and I think we can give Ticketmaster some of the credit for that. So the next time you need a ticket, you might indeed want to go visit the box office. At least that way you'll know for sure what price you're paying.

Why have we reprinted these articles here? 

Because the original publisher may some times change the article web address or delete the
article and break the link we have placed to the article web page.

We at NCW-Online feel these articles are very important to educate and inform the public
of the ever growing dangers to your privacy faced every day on the internet.

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