December 23, 2003 12:14 PM PST

Disney tweaks privacy policy; allows promotions

Walt Disney has revised its online privacy policy to allow the sharing of user information to third parties, the company confirmed on Tuesday.

Disney's policy change applies to information that people submit when registering for its family of Web sites, including Disney.com, ESPN.com and Movies.com. Collecting personal information during registration is a common practice among most major Web sites, providing a way to learn more about users. In Disney's case, the entertainment giant asks people to enter their e-mail address, home address and date of birth.

New registrants who accept Disney's privacy policy during registration also accept all marketing options by default. They have to manually turn them off later if they want to opt out. For currently registered Disney users, the sharing options are turned off. Users can opt in by clicking various options.

A Disney representative said the changes were made to help customer service operate more effectively between its offline and online businesses. In particular, Disney's theme park business has witnessed a lot of crossover from people researching vacations online and then following up with a phone call to representatives.

"As consumers have become more advanced in their online behaviors...it has become clear that it's difficult for us to handle customer service by not sharing information across companies," said Kim Kerscher, a Disney spokeswoman. "So many transactions from the parks business have gone online."

The policy change went into effect Nov. 6, but some customers have yet to receive the e-mail notifying them of the changes.

The changes are as follows:

• Disney will let outside companies send promotions to its users via postal mail.

• Disney will share information with its non-Internet businesses, namely its theme parks, to boost customer service when making reservations. These businesses will also be able to use the information to market products and services to people.

• Disney can send e-mail and postal mail promotions to its customers.

• Disney can obtain information about its users from third parties, such as the postal service or other marketers.

Changes in Web privacy policies sometimes cause a stir among users. In October, Yahoo reached a settlement with New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer after an investigation into the Web portal's privacy and marketing policy changes. In March 2002, Yahoo switched people's marketing preferences to receive promotional e-mails and telemarketing calls by default.

Yahoo agreed to pay Spitzer's office $75,000 to cover investigation costs and said it would provide 30 days' notice to its registered customers before making additional changes to its marketing policies.

 

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