About.com just got bought by Barry Diller. What happens to your data?

Registered at About.com? You've just joined the InterActive Corp family -- and so has your data. Meet your new siblings, Dictionary.com, iWon, and Smiley Central.


Here’s one of the biggest problems with Internet data collection. No matter who’s doing the collecting or how responsible that company is about protecting your personal information, when that company is sold or acquired all bets are off. Your data – the most important asset of most Internet companies -- may be suddenly unprotected.

What happens when Company A, which offers its users fairly strict privacy protection, is acquired by Company B, which does not? We’re about to find out.

The New York Times Company just sold its About.com group to Barry Diller’s InterActive Corp (IAC) for $300 million. IAC is one of the quiet giants of the Internet, operating more than 40 subsidiaries, including such well-known sites as Match.com, The Daily Beast, Ask.com, and CollegeHumor.

About.com is pretty good about protecting its users’ privacy. For example, its privacy policy states:

We contract with other companies to provide services on our behalf, including credit-card and billing processing, shipping, e-mail distribution, list processing and promotions management. We provide these companies only with the information they need to perform their services. These service providers are restricted from using this data in any way other than to provide services for us, and they may not share, resell or use the data for their own marketing purposes.

In other words, About.com doesn’t sell your data to third parties or share it with affiliates or “trusted marketing partners.” It even shields your email address and other personal information from advertisers and marketers.

IAC? Not so good. Here’s what its privacy policy says:

We may share personal information with:

* Service providers, such as credit-card payment processors, performing services on our behalf;

* Other IAC businesses;

* Other businesses with which we partner or which we carefully select to offer you products, services, and promotions through our website or offline; and

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