In the realm of “Are you kidding me?” —
The following was written by Elizabeth Dwoskin, posted on WSJ Blogs:
A marketing company purporting to sell lists of rape and domestic violence victims removed the lists from its website Wednesday after being contacted by The Wall Street Journal.
Medbase200, a Lake Forest, Ill., company that sells marketing information to pharmaceutical companies, had been offering a list of “rape sufferers” on its website, at a cost of $79 for 1,000 names.
The company also removed lists of domestic violence victims, HIV/AIDS patients and “peer pressure sufferers” that it had been offering for sale, until it was contacted by the Journal.
The rape-victims list was first disclosed by Pam Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum, at a Senate hearing Wednesday about the data-broker industry. Ms. Dixon could not be reached for comment after her testimony.
The hearing was part of a Senate Commerce Committee investigation into the data-broker industry. In a report Wednesday, the committee said marketers maintain databases that purport to track and sell the names of people who have diabetes, depression, and osteoporosis, as well as how often women visit a gynecologist. The report said individuals don’t have a right to know what types of data the companies collect, how people are placed in categories, or who buys the information.
Medbase200, a unit of Integrated Business Services Inc., sells lists of health-care providers and of people purportedly suffering from ailments such as diabetes and arthritis to pharmaceutical companies.
In an interview, Integrated Business Services President Sam Tartamella initially denied that his company maintained or sold databases of rape victims. After the Journal provided him a link to the “rape sufferers” page, he said he would remove it from Medbase200′s website. The page was removed later Wednesday.
In a subsequent email conversation, Tartamella said the company had never maintained an actual list of rape victims. “No one has ever leased, rented or otherwise acquired such a file from our firm, ever,” he said.
He said a “hypothetical list of health conditions/ailments was used as a hypothetical” file for an internal test. “Apparently, that ‘test’ datacard was never removed after the website went live,” he wrote.
Tartamella said he was combing through his company’s website to ensure “that other errors are not present.”
To compile its lists of patients, Tartamella said the company used direct surveys, along with proprietary models that could not be shared.
Note: This post has been updated to reflect that Medscape200 also removed a list of HIV/AIDS patients that had been on its website.