California Court Rules Email Addresses Are Personal Identification Information

James Chiodo, Certified Information Privacy Professional CIPP/US

On October 22, 2013, a California district court ruled that an individual’s email address is personal identification information (PII) and would not dismiss a lawsuit by a customer alleging that Nordstrom Inc. was in violation of the Song-Beverly Credit Card Act.

In this case, Nordstrom Inc. requested the email address from the customer as part of a credit card transaction, so they could email the customer a receipt. However, it was alleged, they also followed up with unsolicited marketing material.

Although it failed, Nordstrom Inc. did present an interesting defense that if the email address was considered personal information, then it would fall under the CAN-SPAM Act that governs unsolicited commercial email.

With the fast-changing laws governing individual privacy, retailers should pay special attention on how they handle email addresses and other personal information provided to them from their customers.


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