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SEC: Personal Information has Intrisnic Value 55

dillon_rinker writes " In a nutshell, the SEC says that if web sites require a name and personal information in exchange for otherwise free stock, they are actually selling the stock. IAKAL, but this strikes me as a Good Thing in terms of privacy protection. There is little in US law that protects invasion of privacy by corporations. If the govt says personal information is valuable, I would think it would be easier to protect it, given the materialistic orientation of US law. " So, essentially you can't "give" the stock away-the SEC says you are selling it-it's just personal information that's the monetary unit. It's an interesting idea-by making your personal information into something with an intrinsic value, you can "creatively" use other portions of the law to defend personal privacy.
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SEC: Personal Information has Intrisnic Value

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  • do they put the stock in your name if they don't ask for your information? BTW: That exit23b company only asked for a name and email address. That's not much. If they were willing to give me 10,000 shares, I'd gladly share more info with them!

  • Read Cringley's The Pulpit [] for some clues.
  • Damn hippy! Go hug a tree! Save a whale!


  • What the heck kind of modem is this? Must be a Winmodem, since I've never heard of a external modem that does this. Maybe you mean the comm /fax software that comes with the modem? In any case there is a simple solution to the problem. Don't use your *Real Name* as it printed in the phone book, utility bills or your drivers licence. Use a modified form of it.
  • I am KNOT a lawyer!

  • Would this mean that setting up or using a cypherpunk account would be equivalent to stealing?

    Only if the information provider specifically prohibits this sort of thing in their terms of use.

  • Well, the unauthorized user has to somehow acquire the information before they can use it in a way you don't like.

    Let's assume that this information exists only in your friend's head, your head, and personal property of you and your friend. We'll further assume that you don't voluntarily offer this information to the unauthorized user.

    There are only two ways the unauthorized user can acquire this information. One is by stealing the physical property which contains it. This is (obviously) prohibited by existing laws; it is not necessary to do the $1K deal with your friend to protect your property!

    The second is if your friend voluntarily offers this information to the unauthorized user. Your plan doesn't prevent that at all, so you have no legal grounds for going after the unauthorized user.

    What you could do to protect the information is to have everyone you give it to (your friend in this case) sign a non-disclosure agreement. Then you could sue your friend if he or she gives the information to an unauthorized user, but you'd still have nothing against the unauthorized users themselves.

    In any case, the thousand-dollar trade doesn't gain you anything.

  • Since most sweepstakes require you to give them information for marketing purposes and permission
    to use your likeness in promotional activities if you win, if the law is interpreted the same, these
    sweepstakes could be considered lotteries and hence illegal.

    If this is interpretation holds, this could kill most non-promotional sweepstakes in the US.
  • Slashdot readers usually use the traditional cypherpunks login to get at registration-required sites. This ruling seems to imply that since something of value is required from the user, the information/access received by the user is similarly valuable. Would this mean that setting up or using a cypherpunk account would be equivalent to stealing?
  • So can I now get something back from spammers who take my personal info from newsgroups? After all, they are taking my personal info, which has value, without me being compensated.

    I wonder how this will affect various mailing lists, etc. . . that use my "personal info". Will they be subject to fees or taxes? Like the NY Times site, if they are taxed per person logging in, they might start charging for access.

  • Hard to tell if previous commenters noticed this:

    The SEC, though, recently said "free" shares are actually being "sold" if stock recipients must surrender personal information that's valuable for company marketing.

    It's not clear (at least to me) what constitutes "information that's valuable for company marketing." Perhaps the minimum information that is necessary to transfer ownership of stock, or even to open an account (name, address, etc.), does not qualify, but these sites are also requiring additional information as part of the deal that is valuable (income level, age, number of kids, etc.)? If so, then it would be possible to give away stock, but they just aren't doing so.

    David Gould
  • I Am Killing All Lawyers? Now that's a step in the right direction... :P
  • To me this is not about the intrinsic value of one's PI but is instead a typical ploy/ruse by a US Federal Agency to gain regulatory control. While the SEC may feel justified in their ruling, I feel that this opens up Pandora's box with respect to PI and the internet. It is pretty obvious that this is only going to be resolved by a higher court decision.

    Another example of this type of decision making is the FCC case concerning calls to one's ISP; are these calls local or long distance connections. If they are local, then the states and local governments have jurisdiction. If they are long distance, then the FCC takes control.

    The US government (Secret Service) also better take a look at the SEC's ruling. They have been funding the development of a national database of driver's license photos. Some company, funded by the Feds, has purchased millions of driver id photos (and other info) from a few states. Hmmm, I wonder if this has intrinsic value?
  • The Washington Post reported today that the collection of license photos and other driver id info is being funded by the US Secret Service. A small company in New Hampshire is building the database. Some members of the US Congress have also been involved in helping to set up the arrangement.

    A State judge in S. Carolina ruled that this database system is, "no more intrusive on the privacy of an individual than showing the driver's license itself."

    Stay tuned folks, this one is going to get ugly.
  • I wonder if this might be interpreted to mean that corporatins that collect private information (everything from online surveys to magazine subscriptions to ISP applications) might need to get explicit permission before selling this information to Direct Marketing (a.k.a., SPAM) companies?

    (Well, one can deram...)

  • If we get the rest of the government to acknowledge this, we are making our personal information something that would be protected under the 'no person should be deprived of their property without due process' rules.
    This would be a phenomenal advance in privacy law! (If we can get more than just the SEC to recognize it)..
  • I'm not talking about information you have learned... I'm talking about details of your life, your spending habits, your political/economic views.. all sorts of information of which you definitely have ownership, and is of value. For someone to spy on you, and/or track your habits is for them to steal your property... since they are selling something of yours, that you did not consent to giving them.

    Information that you would learn in college is not private, and it's ownership is not undisputable... unlike your preferred brand of stereo hardware... the type of milk you drink.. etc...
  • Reading about the sort of stock giveaways that are available, in that article, I was reminded a lot of pyramid marketing schemes... And a little of co-operative organisations...

    I really, _really_ miss the days when Yahoo was a hobby site run by a couple of guys from their dorm rooms, when commercial traffic was banned from the backbone (and AOL didn't have 'Net access) and when Mosaic Communications' Netscape (anyone remember was fucking cool because it displayed JPEGs...

  • This is an excellent development. I think it was David Friedman who said that a good economist is concerned not merely with money, but with valuables in general.

    (By the way, "intrinsic value" implies a value judgement without a valuer, which is meaningless. My name and address hold great value to my family and friends, but less value to a company whose products I buy, and no value at all to a rock.)
  • Extremes are quite useful at times, especially as counter-examples.

    For you extreme-haters out there, please notice that I didn't rely solely on the rock extreme to make my point.

    Besides, it's not true that nothing is valueable to a rock. Even a rock can be destroyed. Assuming the goal is the rock's continued existence, it's fairly obvious that a calm, grassy field is more valuable than a beach on the Atlantic where the rock would be pummelled by ocean waves.
  • As I see it, the SEC simply wants more things to regulate, so they make up an excuse to regulate a new business model. I don't think they are the least bit concerned about anyone's privacy.
  • I'd love to get hardware in exchange for personal info.
  • just think... you can tell credit reporting agencies that they have to pay you in order to sell your credit info to all those damn 'pre-approved' credit card people...

  • Um, I think I would do a Format c:\ or whatever the equivilent is.
    Random question, how do you format a new drive that is being added in Linux?
  • 1. Write down "2+2=4" and ask it if it wants to be free.

    2. Do you really believe the sentiment behind that quote and that it doesn't apply to personal information? Fine. I want your home address and directions to it from the nearest major city. I want a map of your house with an X where your computer is. I want to know if you own a gun or a dog over 50 pounds. Information can be used to threaten your property or your person. Losing control of personal information can be frightening.
  • Perhaps a URL - most corporations have, somewhere on their main web site, a URL to their terms of use, legal disclaimers, etc.
  • Typo, not a misspelling - I Am Not A Lawyer.

    Sorry for the trouble :)
  • With the SEC declaring that personal info
    is valuable, and is considered a monetary unit
    on the net, does that mean I have a right to ask
    for re-imbursement if I discover someone using
    my personal information with out my authorization?

Who goeth a-borrowing goeth a-sorrowing. -- Thomas Tusser