Email privacy lawsuit payout

You know all these competitions that offer you the chance to win a free iPod, in return for your contact details? Well, you'll be unsurprised to hear that, as well as your standing only a minimal chance of winning a prize, the contact details stand a good chance of being flogged off to a third party company.

Such behaviour is, of course, illegal, especially if the company's Web site has a privacy statement.

As a US company called Datran Media discovered last week when it agreed to pay $1.1 million in settlement after the New York state attorney charged it with using 6,000 e-mail addresses it had obtained fraudulently.

According to newswire reports, the e-mails were purchased from companies, including one that offered a chance to win free iPods in exchange for e-mail addresses.

And despite a privacy policy assuring consumers it would "never lend, sell or give out for any reason" the e-mail addresses of visitors, Gratis Internet sold Datran 7 million personal files, according to a statement announcing the settlement.

As part of the settlement, Datran also agreed to destroy the e-mail addresses obtained from Gratis, stop buying personal information unless it checks the seller's privacy policy, and appoint a chief privacy officer.

Myself, I've started using a Google email address for my competition entries and other less important Internet crap. That way I can filter out all the spam and other rubbish. You might want to consider doing the same...