It’s nowhere nearly as tragic as "Death of a Salesman," but Lotus announced on the 23rd of January that it has canceled Lotus MarketPlace:Households. From what we’ve heard, Lotus has received a tremendous number of complaining calls and letters. Lotus chairman Jim Manzi said, "At last count we had received more than 30,000 calls to our name removal service, including calls from customers, vendors and others in the industry." In addition, Manzi canceled MarketPlace:Business because the two products were complementary and he didn’t feel that MarketPlace:Business could succeed without MarketPlace:Households.
In its press release, Lotus said the cost of addressing consumer privacy issues would be prohibitive, as we suggested last week. Manzi said "the product is not part of our core business, and Lotus would be ill-served by a prolonged battle over consumer privacy." It’s nice to see that some of the issues we and others on the networks raised also occurred to the people in charge of this project. In this case, it goes to show that the people in the computer industry can influence issues rooted in technology, but having far reaching implications. Congratulations to everyone who voiced an opinion to Lotus and Equifax.
We applaud Lotus’s courage in leaving a bad situation before its reputation hit an all-time low. Of course, Manzi said in the press release and letter to the Lotus employees that Lotus still felt that its safeguards would have prevented any abuse of the product. Interestingly enough, Lotus claimed these safeguards were more stringent than any currently existing in the direct marketing industry. Unfortunately, while this may indeed be true, it does not imply (a) that the safeguards currently in use in the industry are anywhere near stringent enough – which they’re not, as evidenced by the ease with which a writer for McGraw-Hill managed to get Vice-President Dan Quayle’s credit rating from TRW – or (b) that Lotus’s safeguards were stringent enough to offset the increased potential for abuse brought about by MarketPlace’s large audience (i.e. anybody with a Mac and CD-ROM player). We and 30,000 others disagreed with Lotus about the stringency of the safeguards, and we’re the ones who would have been affected. And unlike Lotus, none of us would have been making money on the whole deal. 🙂