Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Fun With Privacy Policies

(Thanks to Chris Whinery of Whinery Mortgage for the heads-up on this one! If you're ever in the mood, you can listen to his radio show via the internet on Sunday mornings from 11am to 1pm CST. It's always great entertainment.)

Anyone ever actually read's Privacy Policy?

Me neither.

Until now.

It's pretty entertaining, really, for a Privacy Policy. Personally, I can't remember the last time I actually waded through one of these things in its entirety. I wouldn't expect other people to do it, either. There is, however, a point to be made here.

I'd like to call up a few of the highlights of the "When Banks Compete, You Win" folks and their carefully-worded ability — nay, duty — to distribute your personal information to pretty much anybody they want.

Let's start with the good-sounding stuff:

Your Privacy is Important to Us. At LendingTree, your privacy is our chief concern. We understand that you entrust us with your private financial information to help us match you with a bank, lender or loan broker (we refer to all of these as "Lenders") or real estate professional who can meet your needs. In exchange for your trust, you expect and deserve our commitment to treat your information with respect. Rest assured that we protect your privacy. Under no circumstances will LendingTree sell or share any personal information about you to or with any person or organization except: as authorized by you, to participating lenders, real estate professionals or other parties involved in your transaction, or as may be required by law or court order.

A little farther down, regarding who they'll share your information with, they muddy the water a bit:

We use the information you provide on your loan or realty request to match you with up to four participating Lenders, real estate professionals or authorized agents. We may also send your information to other third parties relevant to your transaction. Lenders will also receive your credit history when they review your request.

Notice how they leave themselves some nice wiggle room: "Other third parties relevant to your transaction." In my book, what this means is that they're looking to dump your personal info into the hands of pretty much any mortgage broker, bank, or "other relevant third party" willing to pony up $35 (I'm told that's the going rate) for it.

Oh, and let's not forget that other large, info-hungry audience: people Lending Tree refers to as "real estate professionals."

And there's this shiny nugget, buried in the middle of a paragraph in the middle of the page:

Because our Lenders and real estate professionals may keep and use your information whether or not you qualify for a loan with them or use their services, we recommend that you contact them directly for more information about their specific privacy policies.

Now for the question we're all asking: How does one give Lending Tree authorization to share information?

At your direction (when you click on the "Submit" button), the information that you provide to us on the loan or realty request will be sent through the LendingTree system and presented to up to four participating Lenders who offer the types of loan products you have identified, other parties relevant to your transaction and/or participating real estate professionals.

That's a pretty powerful "Submit" button, huh? But it gets better:

At your direction (when you click on the "Submit" button or on the "Continue" button on "Page 1: Tell Us About Your Loan" on the loan request form), the information you provide to us on the loan or realty request will be sent through the LendingTree system and may be presented to our authorized agents.

And better:

If you complete the first page of the loan request form (by hitting the "Continue" button on "Page 1: Tell Us About Your Loan") but leave portions of the form incomplete, LendingTree will transmit your loan request form to up to 4 of its lenders who can help you complete your loan request and possibly extend you loan offers. By completing the first page of the loan request form, you authorize LendingTree to transmit your loan request form to up to 4 lenders.

So once Lending Tree has your info, how long do they keep it?

Federal and state regulations require that we store completed loan and real estate requests for various periods of time. In order to comply with these regulations, we cannot delete information from our databases. ...Even if your loan or realty request was withdrawn, by law, we cannot delete that information. We store all of the information you might provide securely.

There you have it, kids. Once you hit the "Submit" button — or even just the "Continue" button — it appears as if Lending Tree has magic distribution power over your personal information until ... well, until the end of time, apparently. Or until their servers unravel.

— Posted by Michael @ 11:36 AM


From the other side of things, the ING privacy policy, which I like a lot - plain language and reasonable.

Anonymous Anonymous
, at 8:17 PM, October 19, 2005  

One more reason to like ING I guess. Thanks for the great read Mike.


Every company speaks more and it has a privacy policy.At the first glance it would appear that it is user oriented ,but more details you go through,you will find it more on safeguarding the company's interest than that of its's users.

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