Thursday, March 11

Choosing The Truth: Take Your Pick

"All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.” — Galileo Galilei


Except, fewer and fewer people seem the least bit interested. Take the recent settlement between the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), 35 state attorneys general, and a company accused of deceptive business practices for making false claims. The outcome is cast in a rainbow of colors. If you happened to catch them all, you can pick and chose a truth for you.

There is the FTC truth. The LifeLock truth. The other LifeLock truth. The David Cowen truth. Confused? Here's a summary of the links sourced above.

The FTC Truth.

LifeLock, Inc. has agreed to pay $11 million to the Federal Trade Commission and $1 million to a group of 35 state attorneys general to settle charges that the company used false claims to promote its identity theft protection services, which it widely advertised by displaying its CEO’s Social Security number on the side of a truck.

In one of the largest FTC-state coordinated settlements on record, LifeLock and its principals will be barred from making deceptive claims and required to take more stringent measures to safeguard the personal information they collect from customers.

“While LifeLock promised consumers complete protection against all types of identity theft, in truth, the protection it actually provided left enough holes that you could drive a truck through it,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz.

“This agreement effectively prevents LifeLock from misrepresenting that its services offer absolute prevention against identity theft because there is unfortunately no foolproof way to avoid ID theft,” Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said. “Consumers can take definitive steps to minimize the chances of having their personal information stolen, and this settlement will help them make more informed decisions about whether to enroll in ID theft protection services.”

The LifeLock Truth.

LifeLock, Inc., the industry leader in identity theft protection, today announced that it has signed an agreement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and several State attorneys general which closes a compliance inquiry by setting advertising standards for the company and establishing regulatory guidance for the identity theft protection industry.

"LifeLock is pleased with this agreement, which, for the very first time, works to set advertising guidelines for the entire industry. We welcome federal and state efforts to regulate our industry, because doing so helps to protect consumers from the risks of identity theft," said LifeLock Chairman and CEO Todd Davis.

"Because of LifeLock's marketing efforts over the years, many more Americans now know of the risks of identity theft," said Davis. "More than one and a half million consumers rely on us 24 hours a day to help protect their identities."

The Other LifeLock Truth.

LifeLock cofounder Davis said yesterday that the company had already abandoned most of the practices outlined in the FTC's complaint and settlement agreement.

"Today's agreement makes absolutely no impact on our business as it runs today, in our service or our advertising," Davis said in a phone interview.

Davis said LifeLock's revamped service, in place since the fall, didn't rely on fraud alerts. Instead, he said the company had partnered with other technology companies to develop "our own unique LifeLock identity alerts" designed to give customers early warning of identity theft and related frauds.

The David Cowen Truth.

The truth is that the FTC doesn't care whether consumers need protection from LifeLock's ads. The FTC has clear direction from President Obama to demonstrate its dominion over financial services as he campaigns to establish a consumer protection agency, and so the FTC is prepared to enforce and potentially litigate even in cases it knows it can't win. LifeLock understood this, and so even though $12 million is a LOT of money, it's nothing compared to what the lawyers will charge over the next five years to successfully defend against an FTC crusade.

A Recap Of Choices

So which is it?

Was LifeLock barred from making deceptive claims and required to better safeguard the personal information it collects?

Or, did LifeLock work hand in hand with the FTC to set new regulatory guidance for the identity theft protection industry?

Or, did LifeLock agree to a $12 million settlement to atone for past mistakes that it had already self-corrected last year?

Or, was LifeLock singled out because the FTC is following a mandate by President Obama to demonstrate dominion?

There are plenty more truths if you turn to the press. However, the vast majority of stories seem to be simply rehashing what everyone else said. How does this serve the public? We have no idea.

Based on these stories, please help us find the answer by choosing what you think is the truth below. The poll will close next Wednesday, and then we will publish the results along with our best assessment on what the truth might be. Vote for one.


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