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Data watchdog to scrutinize Disney's Go.com sale

"Privacy seal" program Truste rattles its saber over the possibility that the media giant could sell customer data, despite promises otherwise.

Eight months after the controversial attempt by Toysmart.com to auction its customer data, Truste plans to watch closely as Walt Disney sells its Go.com online property later this year, a representative of the data watchdog said Thursday.

"We will need to be completely assured that they don't plan to sell their data," said David Steer, spokesman for privacy-policy auditor Truste, which has faced criticism in the past for failing to rebuke high-profile companies over data leaks. "We still need to have conversations with them about what they intend to do with the data."

On Monday, Disney announced that it would close the doors of its online portal, Go.com; let go 400 employees; and sell the company's tangible assets. Several reports speculated that the company would also attempt to sell its customer data.

For that reason, Truste was preparing to scrutinize the carving up of the dot-com, Steer said.

"It will be best if this is done with as much public attention as possible," he said.

Disney flatly denied the reports of plans to sell customers' dossiers.

"I can't say this enough," said Michelle Bergman, spokeswoman for the entertainment company. "We are not going to sell our customer list."

That wasn't true last June, when Toysmart revealed that it would sell its customer data to the highest bidder, touching off a firestorm of controversy over whether defunct companies must abide by their privacy policies. Eventually, Disney, which owned a majority interest in the company, dropped its planned sale.

On Wednesday, a federal judge gave the go-ahead for Disney to destroy Toysmart's list of customers.