New York AG Sues Gratis Over Personal Info

New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer has filed suit against Washington D.C.s Gratis Internet for what it describes as “the largest deliberate breach of privacy in Internet history.”

Gratis operates numerous Web sites including FreeiPods.com, FreeCDs.com, FreeDVDs.com and FreeVideoGames.com, which promised users free products, generally by participating in free trials of other products. According to the suit, Gratis promised confidentiality to site users, but instead Gratis owners Peter Martin and Robert Jewell turned around and sold personal information belonging to between one and seven million customers to three independent email marketers during 2004 and 2005.

“Unless checked now, companies that collect and sell information on consumers will continue to find ways to erode the basic standards that protect privacy in the internet age,” Spitzer said.

The suit also alleges that Gratis repeatedly denied it had shared data with email marketers, and asserted in writing to the New York Attorney General’s office that it had never sold, rented, or lent email addresses of its users. Yet, the suit cites data sharing contracts between Gratis and Internet marketers.

The suit seeks penalities and injunctive relief against Gratis and its owners, Martin and Jewell.