None Of Your Business

Customer data were once gold to e-commerce. Now, companies are paying a price for privacy jitters

Not so long ago, the rich lode of personal data about customers that Internet companies were collecting helped push their stock prices sky-high. Tapping this vast potential for targeted marketing looked like a fast track to sales, profits, and quick capital gains. Now, suddenly, online marketers' power to accumulate, and possibly misuse, these huge databases is making Web users leery--and stirring a sharp backlash on Wall Street. Call it the privacy penalty.

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