Sep 052009
 September 5, 2009  Posted by  Business, Online

Plaxo‘s privacy policies are changing.

According to a notice on their site, their privacy policy will be changing on October 6.  They explain:

Just as today we allow folks to sign up and sign in to Plaxo using identities from external websites, later this year we will allow you to sign up or sign in to Plaxo with an identity from other specified Comcast Websites. To do that, we are taking steps now to create a unified Terms of Service and Privacy Policy for the participating CIM Websites, including Plaxo, to provide consistent protection and to minimize complexity and confusion for our users.

The new Terms of Service and Privacy Policy will go into effect on October 6th, 2009. Those familiar with the details of our current terms and policies will find the new ones share many of the same core privacy principles and spirit of user control. We remain strongly committed to the notion that your data and content are yours (not ours). For more info, check out this posting from Comcast’s Chief Blogger, Scott McNulty.

Current Privacy Policy and ToS
Updated Privacy Policy and ToS

Sounds nice, but a closer look did not seem to please Search Engine Watch‘s Frank Watson, who points out that, as outlined in the email Plaxo users received:

1. Demographic portions of your data (such as zip code, gender, or industry) and usage patterns may be shared with our trusted partners who deliver advertising to you on our behalf. Consistent with our current policy, personally identifiable information (e.g. your name, address, phone number, email) will not be shared with third parties for advertising purposes without your consent; and
2. The advertising networks who deliver ads on Plaxo may use their own cookies to collect information about a user’s activities across their entire network of Websites.

Also, I found nothing in Plaxo’s revised privacy policy that would prohibit or limit the use of sensitive information, an issue that privacy groups and privacy advocates have been encouraging Congress to address legislatively. And in light of the recent Liskula Cohen case, it’s noteworthy that Plaxo’s privacy policy about disclosing your information says this (emphasis added by me):

Comcast holds customer privacy in the highest regard and we make every reasonable effort to protect your privacy as described in this Privacy Policy. Nevertheless, we may be required by law to disclose Personally Identifiable Information or other information about you or other users of the Comcast Web Services. These disclosures may be made with or without your consent, and with or without notice, in compliance with the terms of a subpoena, court order, search warrant, or other valid legal process. We may also disclose information about you or users of the Comcast Web Services when we believe in good faith that the disclosure of information is necessary to prevent financial loss, address suspected illegal activity, protect our rights or property, or prevent imminent physical harm.

So if they get a subpoena for your information, you may not get notified or be given a chance to fight it? That doesn’t sound like a strong privacy policy in that regard, but that’s just my opinion.

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