Wall Street Journal's "cookie madness," and conflict of interest on privacy reporting

Over at Romenesko/Poynter, Bill Brazell (who used to work with Boing Boing via Federated Media) writes: "It's been disturbing to read the Wall Street Journal's ongoing "What They Know" privacy series without finding a disclosure notifying readers of the Journal's grave conflict of interest. As Jeff Jarvis and others have suggested, the Journal's use of a pay wall may even motivate the stories' fear-mongering tone. Actually, the conflict is deeper: The Journal should disclose at the beginning of every privacy story it publishes that it collects and sells Personally Identifiable Information (PII), and that none of the Top 50 publishers listed does so. Indeed, hardly anyone else on the Web does so."


  1. Except it’s not true:
    From ASHLEY HUSTON, senior director of corporate communications, Dow Jones & Co.: Subject — Response from WSJ to Bill Brazell’s letter. WSJ.com does not sell personally identifiable information of its online users or subscribers, and to suggest otherwise is false and unsupportable. We do rent access to names and mailing address of our print subscribers only to other companies for direct marketing purposes, as has been a common practice among many publishers for decades. [Permalink]

      1. Renting mailing lists is extremely common. It works like this:

        1. You rent a mailing list from the WSJ (or anyone else)
        2. They provide you with a list of acceptable mailing houses with whom they have big nasty nondisclosure contracts with sharp shiny teeth (or you suggest your own and they approve or don’t).
        3. You print this mailing house’s indicia (the thing that says “Presorted US postage paid, permit # XXX” instead of a stamp) on the envelopes (or they provide their own envelopes).
        4a. Your printer sends your mailpieces directly to the mailing house.
        4b. The WSJ sends a digital copy of the mailing list to the mailing house.
        5. The mailing house (possibly stuffs), addresses, and sends the mail, and pays the bulk rate postage to the post office on your behalf.

        At no time are you in possession of a digital (or physical) copy of the mailing list, and the only addresses you can glean are the ones that get returned to you as nondeliverable.

  2. I think the WSJ has become a tool of special interest so perverse – it should spank itself.

    A worldwide audience and a third world mentality.

Comments are closed.