No Disclosure of Affiliates
In our analysis of the privacy policies we found that 46 of the top 50 companies affirmatively state that they share data with affiliates, and the four remaining were unclear. We sent each company a request via email or an online web form for a list of each affiliate they may share data with. We received 14 replies, but none included the lists we asked for. Most stated that they do not disclose corporate information. Based on our experience, it appears that users have no practical way of knowing with whom their data will be shared.
Websites Could Potentially Share User Data with Hundreds of Companies
Our search for corporate families in the Mergent Online database revealed that many of these websites are owned by parent companies that have hundreds of subsidiaries. MySpace, one of the most popular social networking sites (especially among younger users), is owned by NewsCorp, which has over 1500 subsidiaries. These numbers include foreign affiliates, but do not include subsidiaries of subsidiaries, so there may be more that are missing. The numbers at least give us an idea of the vast corporate families to which many of these websites belong. Information pulled from these websites could potentially find its way to all of these affiliated companies.