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Dating Site Acquisition Draws Objection in Texas

SHERMAN, Texas (CN) - Privacy concerns should keep Plenty of Fish from acquiring the 43 million members bankrupt competing dating website True.com, a Texas official said.

After True.com's Plano-based operator, True Beginnings, filed for Chapter 11 protection in Texas last year, Canada-based Plentyoffish.com agreed to a $700,000 asset-purchase agreement.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott objected to the asset sale on Oct. 16.

"At a time when privacy is an issue of grave concern to so many, we are taking legal action to prevent an online dating service from selling more than 2 million Texans' personal information without their consent," Abbott said in a statement. "The proper course is for True.com and its bankruptcy trustee to seek the customers' permission before selling their private information to a third party."

Abbott said he does not object to the asset sale but instead has taken aim at True.com's "ambiguous online published privacy policy" and its failure to provide members with prior notice regarding the sale of their personal information.

True.com's website states it treats all member information "with the utmost care for your privacy and security.

The website purports to screen out married applicants, as well as convicted sex offenders.

"True does not sell, trade, or otherwise disclose customer lists names, addresses, birth dates, email address or other individually identifiable information to unaffiliated third parties without your permission," the website clais.

That assurance aside, True.com's policy goes on to say that member personal information would be considered a transferable asset in the event the website was acquired or its assets sold, Abbott noted.

"The deceptive ambiguity of these contradictory statements mislead customers who have no way to discern whether they must affirmatively consent or object to the transfer of their [personally identifiable information]," his 18-page objection states. "Moreover, the misleading statements do not state whether or how customers will receive notice of a potential transfer of their [personally identifiable information]. Indeed, in this case, customers have received no notice of the bankruptcy, the sale, or of any resulting possibility of a transfer of their [personally identifiable information."

Abbott said True Beginnings plans to notify members of the sale in an email that fails to seek approval from members regarding the transfer of their information.

"Under the current transfer process, to which the Attorney General objects, data will be transferred unless the customer takes direct steps to opt-out," Abbott said. "The Attorney General seeks approval for customers to be allowed to opt-in by having them express approval for the transfer of their personal information."

True.com did not respond to a request for comment.

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