Don’t Sell Customers’ Data (The Wall Street Journal)

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Should companies be allowed to profit by selling their customers’ data? The Wall Street Journal poses this question to a group of experts, including Robert Howell, the David T. McLaughlin D’54, T’55 Distinguished Visiting Professor of Business Administration at the Tuck School of Business.

Selling customer data to third parties is “a violation of privacy rights and unconstitutional,” writes Howell. However, there are ways that companies can legally profit from using their customers’ data, Howell says. “First, as companies such as Amazon and Netflix do, providing suggestions to specific customers of other products they might buy, based on their previous purchases, is appropriate.”

Howell continues, “Second, I have no problem if a company aggregates data from its customers, such that individual detailed information is summarized, and sells it to third parties. This happens often as companies perform analyses by segments of their customer base to determine the characteristics of their customers generally.”

Read the full opinion piece, published 10/23/13 by The Wall Street Journal.