Posted by Sequel on April 23, 2013
Topic: blogs, Privacy
Tags: Court rulings, Privacy
One State Court Finds Requiring Zip Codes to Be a Privacy Issue

If you require your customers to supply a ZIP Code as a part of a transactions, you might want to rethink that practice.

A Massachusetts top court recently ruled that a Zip Code falls within the definition of “personal information” and that collecting a Zip code can be a violation of that state’s privacy laws. Although this decision is currently applicable only to Massachusetts, it’s a safe bet that other state courts may soon follow suit.

In the case we are discussing, a retail craft store, Michael’s, is alleged to have leveraged  ZIP Code information improperly.  Michael’s required a zip code in connection with standard purchases, which it then used to look up customer  phone numbers and addresses in order for Michael’s to send marketing materials. (The court carved out an exception for situations in which the merchant is required by a credit card agreement to obtain address information, as well as for instances where the information was necessary for shipping products).

I’m recommending that all of my clients immediately evaluate whether their practices require the collection of Zip Code information, and, if so, evaluate whether the collection and maintenance of such information falls into one of the two exceptions.

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