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Disney e-mail shows what's stopping, changing at Go.com

Walt Disney offers new details of plans to shutter its Go.com Web portal, notifying people of changes that will affect some Web services offered in exchange for personal data.

Walt Disney this week offered new details of plans to shut down its Go.com Web portal, notifying members of changes that will affect some affiliated Web services offered in exchange for personal data such as home telephone numbers.

In an e-mail to members this weekend, Disney promised to continue offering free Go.com e-mail accounts from other Disney-owned Web sites. It also said it will shift some services such as message boards to other sites under the Disney umbrella, such as ABCNews.com and ESPN.com. Still other services will be either sold or shut down.

Disney last month said it would dissolve Go.com; lay off about 400 employees, mostly from its Sunnyvale, Calif., headquarters; and convert all shares of its Internet tracking stock to the company's own stock. The company said it wanted to focus on its stronger Web assets that tied to its traditional businesses, such as ESPN, ABC News and its flagship entertainment brand.

The announcement has sparked watchdog groups to monitor the sale of Go.com's assets. Shortly after the Go.com announcement, privacy policy auditor Truste said it wanted clear assurances that Disney would not sell consumer data.

"Companies that do want to sell information have no obligation to let the public know that that's what they intend to do with that type of information," said Andrew Shen, policy analyst at watchdog group the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

In its e-mail this weekend, Disney included a link to a list of frequently asked questions, which stated the company will not sell consumer information.

"We want to reassure you that any personally identifiable information collected from you will not be sold or shared outside the family of sites," the FAQ reads.

The e-mail also included details about other parts of the service that will no longer be available in their current form. For example, Go.com's search and directory services, its home page builder, and Infoseek's Express Search will either disappear or be available on a different site.

A Disney spokeswoman confirmed the authenticity of the FAQ and the e-mail but declined to comment further.

Features relevant to Disney's other sites will continue from new locations. For example, message boards about sports will migrate to ESPN.com, boards about news will go to ABCNews.com, and boards about family will go to Family.com.

Go.com's "Add URL" program has disappeared. Under the program, Web site operators could submit for consideration their site in the Go.com directory.

The future of its "Go Award points" service, which offers incentives and prizes to consumers, has not been determined.

Disney has been in the privacy spotlight before, when online toy retailer Toysmart.com revealed it would sell consumer information as part of the fire sale of its assets. Disney owned a majority stake in Toysmart before it went out of business.

A judge last month gave clearance for Disney to destroy Toysmart's customer list.