Is there a case for negligent infliction of emotional distress? If not, what is the duty of a company leasing a customer contact list to avoid causing harm to the customer being contacted? The duty of the company providing the data on that list? What would Judge Learned Hand have said?
“How Big Data Created a Cruel Result,” Wall Street Journal, January 30, 2014 B1 http://on.wsj.com/1fAXUwF
I am not sure it was Big Data that created the result. Seems more to me that an insensitive agent entered an insensitive comment into a data base, and that comment subsequently turned up in the address field when the customer list was rented to another company. Whatever controls the system had in place failed to prevent information other than name and address from making it into the address field.
In any event, a 17 year-old girl died in a car crash a year ago. Apparently somebody bought a memorial gift for her parents at Things Remembered and had it shipped to them. Things Remembered “rented” its customer list (apparently complete with ship-to addresses) to OfficeMax, who then mailed an ad to the parents. The second line of the address block reads,”Daughter Killed in Car Crash.”
Lots of lessons here, or things to be remembered. Your name and address isn’t private. Why would any retail outlet capture the information about the daughter’s death? Who’s data is it? Can someone track who entered this into the data base? How can they rent information about you to someone else? Did I agree to that? Did you? Is there no privacy or decency in the US? [Apparently not when it comes to marketing, as long as the information is objectively true.] There are business set up for the express purpose of brokering data about you, and that goes beyond name and address. How many disaster communications plans were activated when this hit the wires?