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Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Asinine Concepts In Law, Part I

It's become such an established part of the landscape that it doesn't even draw attention anymore: signs advertising "Pre-Owned Cars." This isn't just an overacting marketer trying to hide the obvious; this is a term with a precise legal definition. A "pre-owned" car is a used car that was has been leased to someone. Because the title remained with the car dealer, it was never "sold" and thus has not been "used." Somehow "pre-owned" sounds better than "used," even though I suspect that people don't quite take care of a leased car as well as they would take care of a car they planned to keep for more than three years. It's a precise legal definition being used to muddy the waters, not to clarify them.

Enter the logical extension of that notion: web site privacy policies. They proudly trumpet that they "will never sell your information to anyone," and indeed they don't. But they do "rent" your information; that is, they will send the ad themselves on behalf of a company that pays them for the privilege. And websites are "renting" their lists as fast as they can, because it's one of the few profitable things they can do.

This just makes me tired and sad. Every time I see "Pre-Owned Cars" or "We will never sell your information to marketers," Atticus Finch seems even farther away.

 5:53 PM

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