In a classic case of one company's problem being another's opportunity, Lexis-Nexis has created business for at least two firms that have stepped forward to help people remove their names from a controversial database maintained by the information service.
In the wake of widespread publicity surrounding Lexis-Nexis's P-TRAK database, a company named OutPost ramped up the launch date for its new Web site, Mr. Postman, OutPost President John Arnold said today. The site allows Internet users to add and remove their names from all sorts of databases, including P-TRAK.
For $2.50, a user can log on to Mr. Postman, fill out a form, and have a letter sent out. OutPost had planned to launch Mr. Postman next week but moved the date up by a week. The timing with the P-TRAK controversy, Arnold said, "was almost uncanny."
P-TRAK is marketed to lawyers and law enforcement officials to help them track down individuals involved in litigation by providing a database of names, addresses, and other personal information, including Social Security numbers. After users protested that Lexis-Nexis was making personal information available that could be too easily misused, the company three months ago modified the service so that subscribers could no longer find Social Security numbers by searching on a person's name.
But P-TRAK subscribers can still look up Social Security numbers and find out who they belong to, as well as find maiden names, aliases, and previous addresses. After a form of email chain letter about the P-TRAK service made the rounds of Net users this week, Lexis-Nexis was bombarded by requests from consumers to remove their names from the database.
But lots of people say they either haven't gotten around to asking or are having trouble getting through to Lexis-Nexis.
OutPost is the second company to try to capitalize on the P-TRAK controversy. Aristotle.Com last week sent out a press release promoting its free email pilot program that, in addition to providing email accounts, also offers to remove names off mass mailing and telemarketing lists generated by members of the Direct Marketing Association. The Direct Marketing Association accounts for an estimated 90 percent of the all marketing firms, an Aristotle spokeswoman said.
So, while Lexis-Nexis struggles to close the book on the P-TRAK controversy, it opens a door for Aristotle to plug its free email service, which is sponsored by government bodies, such as the state of California. Aristotle is working in partnership with the California Secretary of State's office on a pilot to allow state voters to receive the November ballot by email. The company will start making money if and when it makes the arrangement permanent.
Sure, you could do yourself, says OutPost's Arnold, but you haven't, right? "We'd like to eliminate some of your legwork."