Too Much Information

My last issue of Sports Illustrated contained an ad that still haunts me one week later. It’s not the content of the ad, it’s the personalization that gives me the creeps. Frankly I’m a little pissed about it as well.

In an ad for Ford Genuine Parts & Service (between pages 38 and 39 in the Feb. 16, 2004 edition) there is a custom printed block that reads as follows:


THE WORKS, $34.95 OR LESS, INCLUDES EXPERT INSPECTION, OIL CHANGE, TIRE ROTATION & MORE! SOME RESTRICTIONS APPLY, SEE YOUR DEALERSHIP FOR COMPLETE DETAILS.There is no way Time Warner has a record of my automobile purchase history but Ford, obviously, does. Last I checked Ford and Time Warner had not merged, so there’s no possibility some master Sports Illustrated database has a record of my auto purchases. Clearly there was a data matching exercise conducted between the Ford customer lists and the SI subscription database.

All I can conclude is that Ford is sharing my customer data with third parties. I’m pretty sure I was never given an opportunity to opt out of this. My quest now is to opt out of Ford sharing my data with third parties which by law they are required to do. Read on to follow my journey.


This section is a running summary of my quest for information on how this ad was created and whether my data privacy rights and/or federal law were violated in the process.

Ford: A confused customer service rep denied that Ford provided the data and said I should contact SI. She could not provide phone numbers to Media Relations or Advertising.

Sports Illustrated: A knowledgeable customer service rep told me that she had got a memo on the Ford ad. The content of the ad was a special promotion as a result of their partnership with Ford. The information definitely came from Ford, she said and she offered to remove the customization.

Ford: I found a human, though I’ve yet to be able to speak to him. His name is Brian Kelley, Ford Motor Co.’s group vice president of global consumer services and North America. Here’s what he has to say on Fords privacy policies in an industry publication (Wards Dealers Business):

The customer, however, is still very uncertain about the third area that involves the sharing of data across the Ford Motor Co. brands says Mr. Kelley. “We would never share the information with anyone outside the company, but we could within the company if the customer lets us.”

Government regulations also are responding to consumer complaints. Legislation already is on the books that could determine how and what information gets shared.

The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which went into effect on July 1, dictates that consumers must be given the opportunity to opt out of having their information shared or sold to outside companies.I forgot all about Gramm-Leach-Bliley. Under that law dealers must offer customers the opportunity to

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  1. Jess February 16, 2004
  2. bryan February 16, 2004
  3. Tom February 16, 2004
  4. Jay Solo February 16, 2004
  5. Meryl Yourish February 16, 2004
  6. Kevin February 16, 2004
  7. Fritz February 16, 2004
  8. Tom February 18, 2004
  9. Kevin February 18, 2004