In a move that could have repercussions for the increasing number of failing dot-coms, the U.S. Senate Thursday voted 83 to 15 to approve a bill that toughens rules on when bankrupt companies can sell customers' personal information.
The legislation forbids companies from selling customers' personal information at the time of bankruptcy if they had previously promised they wouldn't. A sale or lease of the data can, however, go through if it is consistent with pre-existing company policy or upon court consideration.
The U.S. House approved a similar bankruptcy bill two weeks ago. House and Senate members will meet in a conference committee to work out differences between the two measures. The final bill is expected to go to President George W. Bush perhaps as soon as the next few weeks. He has said that he will sign the bill into law.
The measure, part of a broad bill revamping U.S. bankruptcy laws, seems to take aim at the widely used online business practice of collecting as much consumer information as possible.
Internet companies, often valued by the number of users, find compiling a large and detailed user database essential. In today's rougher times, with many dot-coms going bust, the user databases are considered valuable assets.
The issue came up last year when online toy retailer Toysmart.com Inc. filed for bankruptcy and attempted to sell its customer database to raise cash during bankruptcy proceedings.