Pop Quiz: Can The Pizza Delivery Place Sell Your Personal Information Without Your Consent?

You need the express written consent of Major League Baseball to do pretty much anything to a baseball game, but does your pizza place need your permission to sell your personal information (name, address and phone number) to the highest bidder? Take a guess. The answer is inside. Cheating is easy, but in poor taste. (For the purposes of this quiz, you live in California.)

The answer of course, is “false.” If you managed to guess correctly, you’re smarter than the average Californian. Two researchers at Berkeley conducted a scientific poll in an effort to determine how much Californians knew about their state’s privacy laws. It turns out that large amounts of consumers have no idea that it’s perfectly legal for lots of different kinds of companies to sell their information without their consent, including pizza delivery places.

From the research paper:

Pizza delivery companies, since they are called so frequently by consumers, are a hub for collecting personal information. A delivery company can collect and aggregate caller identification information (typically name and phone number), ask the customer for their phone number (which may be different than what is displayed by caller identification), and in order to process the order, acquire the delivery address. Pizza delivery information is used by private investigators and by governments to track individuals. In the marketing context, pizza delivery databases have been discussed as source for phone numbers for wireless 411 databases.

When we asked Californians whether they thought pizza delivery companies could not sell personal information without their consent, 54.7% incorrectly answered true and 5.8% said they didn?t know.

Other scenarios in which consumers assumed they were protected from sale of their personal information: donating to a charity, registering a product warranty, giving a phone number to a cashier at checkout, registering a product rebate, and ordering from a catalog.

Research Report: What Californians Understand About Privacy Offline
[via CL&P Blog]
(Photo: Tyler Durden’s Imaginary Friend )


Edit Your Comment

  1. apotheosis says:

    The answer of course, is “false.” If you managed to guess correctly, you’re smarter than the average Californian.

    I guessed “false” because if it was true, there wouldn’t really be much to complain about.

  2. Buran says:

    However, IF they have a privacy policy that states that they won’t sell it, then they can be sued for breach of contract if they do anyway since you entered into an agreement with them that included that provision.

  3. Priam3 says:

    Meg? Would you happen to have links for the privacy laws of other states?

  4. B says:

    “for the porpuse of the quiz, i live in California…” Well, screw the quiz then, I’m getting tacos from the back of a truck, then going surfing.

  5. Laffy Daffy says:

    Our surname is German and hard to pronounce so we’ve been using “King” as the name for pizza deliveries and restaurant reservations since the 1970s. Before I got married, my brother and I used to pick obscure (and sometimes not so obscure) sports names for pizza pickups: Walt Frazier, Mario Andretti, Gary Peters (Go White Sox!), etc. It was fun.

  6. farker says:

    You’re better off assuming any time you give your personal information, that someone is going to sell/buy it from someone else. There’s not much use in thinking otherwise.

  7. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    And to add to the list.. those free car raffles you see at the mall or at county fairs. The cost of the car is probably nothing compared to the amount of money they’ll get from selling your personal info over and over again.

  8. SkokieGuy says:

    Some day lawmakers will identify that a person’s person information and any value that information can create is the property of that person.

    The information cannot be bought, sold or distributed with the identify-owner’s permission and / or compensation.

    It applies to movie stars and celebrities. I guess the current laws do not provide equal protection.

    This just in – pigs cannot fly.

  9. RandoX says:

    @boones farmer: I always use Napoleon Dynamite.

  10. homerjay says:

    “information is used by private investigators and by governments to track individuals.”
    Is this really a problem? Show of hands, how many of us are under investigation for any reason?

    What kind of information are they getting from the pizza guy that they can’t get out of a phone book besides my desire for pepperoni?

  11. I operate on the principle that anyone who possesses this precious information will sell it whether he or she has permission or not. So should you.

    Oh, and the correct pronunciation of Koenig is KER-nig.

  12. Corydon says:

    @boones farmer: You didn’t play Chekhov on Star Trek by any chance, did you?

  13. Buran says:

    @LatherRinseRepeat: Yeah, a long time ago before I knew that, I almost fell victim to a scam (didn’t know better about fees for contest prizes) arising from one of those. I walk past them now without entering, and a nastygram got the “fee” refunded to my card.

  14. Buran says:

    @Corydon: Chekhov is the playwright, Chekov the navigator. ;)

  15. stre says:

    wow, are 25% of consumerist readers really naive enough to guess “true”? i guess it’s better than the 54% of californians who answered “true”, but it still sucks. what kind of a story would it be if pizza delivery places threw away your information?

    @homerjay: they can tell where you’ve been and when if you order a pizza.

  16. Juggernaut says:

    @boones farmer: I’ve been doing the same thing, almost as long, but it started with making tee-time reservations and using non-golfer friends names.

  17. dragonfire81 says:

    Pizza places deliver to a wide variety of customers, there’s no particular market they target well. I wouldn’t really value a list of names provided by a pizza joint if I was trying to effectively sell a product to a certain group of people.

  18. uncle_fluffy says:


    Well done, citizen! Nothing to hide = nothing to fear!

    Only the bad people want to protect their privacy. They should be ashamed of themselves. If you know any of these privacy loons, please call 1-800-55-STASI.

  19. heavylee-again says:

    @homerjay: Is this really a problem? Show of hands, how many of us are under investigation for any reason?

    What kind of information are they getting from the pizza guy that they can’t get out of a phone book besides my desire for pepperoni?
    What if a person chose to not be listed in the phonebook for any reason?

  20. Ryan H says:

    For what it is worth, I voted ‘true’ and was right. In Canada we have a wonderful thing called the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA). Under it, businesses and organizations require explicit permission from individuals for any use or storage of their details. It is s truly excellent act.

  21. fuchikoma says:

    Ouch. In Alberta, Canada we have the Freedom Of Information and Protection of Privacy act (FOIP or FOIPP) that among other specific things says you can’t disclose 2+ pieces of personally identifying data without someone’s consent.

    So a pizza place MIGHT (if not for other laws) be able to say “we delivered to a guy whose number is 555-1234” But if they said “Bob Smith, 555-1234” they’d be so far out of business they’d never come back.

  22. edosan says:

    “The answer of course, is “false.” If you managed to guess correctly, you’re smarter than the average Californian.”

    Well, we have a slight advantage that the question is being asked on a consumer rights website (so we can pretty much guess which way this is going to go) while the original quiz probably had this in with a bunch of other questions in a more neutral environment…

  23. Red_Eye says:

    When I worked at a newspaper the #1 source of phone numbers for marketing calls was the Garbage company, everyone (virtually) has trash service and those that didn’t had cable, phone, or water. Pretty much covers the bases.

  24. mwdavis says:

    It turns out that large amounts of consumers have no idea that it’s perfectly legal . . .

    I believe that it is “numbers of consumers” not “amounts of consumers” from a Speaking English Correctly viewpoint.

  25. Cogito Ergo Bibo says:

    I wonder how much value the calling information has if you have to weed out the phone numbers on the national “Do Not Call” list. Sure, the government might have a use for the information (who knows what they want to know or why; can’t be good, but not a clue why they need it), but I’d think that the marketing possibilities by phone should be minimal for those on the list. Otherwise, ka-ching! DNC-list violation!

  26. LionelEHutz says:

    It’s not that hard to be smarter than your average Californian.

  27. ViperBorg says:

    @Ryan H: Unfortunately, the elected asshats in our government are too busy banging hookers, getting kickbacks, attempting to destroy network neutrality, sucking up to the RIAA, and kissing Bush’s ass to care about our personal privacy.

  28. homerjay says:

    No no no… I think that came out wrong. I didn’t mean we should just open ourselves up to invasions of privacy. I just don’t understand what useful information any organization would get from the pizza guy that would be worth paying for.

  29. BrianU says:

    There were pizza companies running names through police wanted/warrant data-banks a couple of years ago, and probably still do. The pizza places received a percentage of any fines collected etc. It seems that a lot of wanted people for all matters of law infractions still order pizza, and of course give their current location to get it delivered.

  30. no.no.notorious says:

    false, once you give your information to the company they can do whatever with it. i had this issue at toys r us (with phone numbers).

  31. MisterE says:

    This is why I give a false phone number whenever asked. Not only that, I’m unlisted. Sometimes I give the local number to Best Buy, Circuit City, or a local radio station.

    I can do what I want with phone numbers too :)

  32. How do I surveille thee?* Let me count the ways…â„¢

  33. Cool, so now that we all order Pizza online, they won’t be getting our personal information!


  34. Trai_Dep says:

    I’d be interested to see how many Mom&Pop pizza places sell you out versus the chains. I’d bet a fraction, a miniscule one.
    Yet another reason to avoid the chains…

  35. RandomHookup says:

    @Trai_Dep: Well, that’s because so many of the mom & pop places are fronts for the mob.

  36. darkryd says:

    Pay in cash and give bogus information. Plain and simple.

  37. darkryd says:

    Ohh Ohh!

    That gives me an idea.

    Somebody should create a “catch all” address and offer it up to the public.

    One phone number and address we could all give to these places as our own. Kind of a like a junk email address, but in physical form.