Lexis-Nexis Backs Down on P-TRAK

In the wake of a massive public outcry against the alleged sale of personal information-on-demand, database services Goliath Lexis-Nexis is back-peddling, hoping to quash rumors that it's marketing private info for profit.At issue is a new database called P-TRAK it put on-line in June, a service the company maintains was designed to help lawyers locate litigants, witnesses, shareholders, debtors and heirs.Internet news groups and a myriad of e-mailers circulated charges over the Internet that P-TRAK provides any caller with such detailed person info as a person's Social Security number, credit history, bank account information and even medical historiesÑall for a small fee. A flood of outraged Internet users demanded the company remove all personal facts from the database.Accusations and excuses have been flying ever since.Among the first to report that dissemination of Social Security numbers through the service could increase the potential for fraud and other illegal activity was respected industry insider C/NET, which quoted Lexis-Nexis marketing literature describing the service as "a quick, convenient search [that] provides up to three addresses, as well as aliases, maiden names, and Social Security numbers" and "puts 300 million names right at your fingertips" for charges starting at about $125 a month.Ever quick to respond to bad press, Nexis-Lexis insisted that no Social Security numbers are accessible; the only data revealed is names, aliases, maiden names, current and previous addresses, month and year of birth and phone numbers.But it turns out that the mega-corp took emergency action and halted the practice of enabling its clients to obtain the Social Security numbers only after C/NET reported details of the service. And while the company quickly acquiesced, it did so rather reluctantly. Case in point: Although the company boasts of its awareness "of the sensitivities regarding the potential misuse of information," it did not hesitate to point the finger at unnamed "business competitors" who have for some time made that data available.The company has said it will accede to requests from the deluge of people who want their names and addresses deleted from the service's database. Officials have made assurances that the information will not be used for any other public database. Simply e-mail your full name, address and telephone number to p-trak@prod.lexis~nexis.com or mail the information to ATTN: P-TRAK, P.O. Box 933, Dayton, OH 45401. A World Wide Web-based form for deletion is available at http://www.lexis~nexis.com/lncc/p-trak/index.html. Information can also be faxed to 800/470-4365.

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