Mar 24, 2015 · 1 minute

RadioShack couldn't sell enough gadgets and gizmos to avoid bankruptcy. Now that it's gone broke, it's looking to peddle something more valuable: Its customers' personal data.

Bloomberg reports that the company wants to sell 13 million email addresses and 65 million names -- in conjunction with their physical addresses -- to the highest bidder as its intellectual property, brand, and assets are put to auction.

Standard General is said to have won the auction for RadioShack's properties, and it reportedly hopes to keep the retail chain alive, albeit in a smaller form. (RadioShack is apparently harder to kill than cockroaches and water bears.)

There are already two challenges to RadioShack's plan to sell off this data. The first, and most important, is from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who says the plan violates laws preventing companies from selling customer data. As Bloomberg says in its report:

Paxton claims that 117 million people are included in RadioShack's customer data sale, which he says offers some details about shopping habits. The filing cites text from a sign displayed in RadioShack stores reading: 'We pride ourselves on not selling our private mailing list.' State law in Texas prohibits companies from selling personally identifiable information in a way that violates their own privacy policies. On Monday, Tennessee's attorney general joined Texas's objection.
The other challenger? AT&T, which alleges that it owns the information RadioShack intends to sell, because the two partnered up to market phones. It wants RadioShack's files destroyed so they can't be used by a competitor.

The court will decide if RadioShack will be allowed to sell off this data. It will certainly have to take these lawsuits into consideration. And it will be interesting if AT&T manages to prevent the personal information belonging to millions of customers from being sold on the open market. After all, this is the company that's become more invasive than Google.

[photo by Becky Stern]