Focusing public attention on emerging privacy and civil liberties issues

Junk Mail and Privacy

Latest News

  • Three bills have been introduced in Congress to deal with unsolicited electronic mail (spam).
  • Attorney Blair Richardson has filed a formal complaint with the Direct Marketing Association over the use of marketing data for lookup services.
  • Avrahami letter to the Direct Marketing Association(6/24), proposing a mechanism which includes explicit consent of consumers. DMA president rejects the suggestion.
  • Recent polls find strong desire of consumers to control their personal information.
  • Class Action Suit Filed against direct marketer who used inmates to process personal data (Dennis v. Metromail, Texas Dist. Ct., No-9604451, Apr. 18, 1996)

The Avrahami Case

A Virginia resident has filed suit in state court against US News & World Report, challenging the right of the magazine to sell or rent his name to another publication without his express written consent. Ram Avrahami claims that USN&WR has benefited commercially from his name, thus violating the Virginia Code which protects every person from having his/her name being used for commercial purpose without consent.

The suit raises a critical question for the future of privacy: who controls personal information? If Mr. Avrahami prevails, companies that sell personal information could be required to obtain permission before data is sold to others. This case may quickly become the leading consumer privacy case in the country.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center is providing expert assistance to Mr. Avrahami and is making available these web pages for the public to learn more about the case and the implications for consumer privacy. Your suggestions and questions are always welcome.

The Law

"Any person whose name, portrait, or picture is used without having first obtained the written consent of such person... for advertising purposes or for the purposes of trade, such persons may maintain a suit in equity against the person, firm or corporation so using such person's name, portrait, or picture to prevent and restrain the use thereof; and may also sue and recover damage for any injuries sustained by reason of such use. And if the defendant shall have knowingly used such person's name, portrait or picture in such manner as is forbidden or declared to be unlawful by this chapter, the jury, in its discretion, may award exemplary damages."

Code of Virginia, Section 8.01-40

Material Available

EPIC has pulled together a comprehensive collection of materials on privacy and junk mail.

Comments and Letters of Support

In his press release Ram Avrahami says that "he hoped the motion would help set up a more equitable and efficient interaction between consumers and corporations in the information age."

Do you support Ram's efforts?

=> Send him your opinion, long or short.

=> Fill a petition, stating YOUR claim over YOUR personal information.

(Of course, your name or email address will not be passed to a third party without your permission.)