Tempe-based LifeLock, Inc. has put former U.S. Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge on its board of directors as it tries to recover from a $12 million punishment from the Federal Trade Commission.
Ridge, the first secretary to the federal agency after it was created in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, looks like a perfect marketing addition for a company that has used deception and fear to sell its products.
The company probably wants Ridge to use his experience issuing terror alerts to scare potential and existing customers, who these days may be more worried about being ripped off by LifeLock than by criminals it claims to guard against. No doubt, the new, high-profile board member -- also a former Pennsylvania governor -- is intended to catch the eye of both the general public and fat-cat investors. LifeLock was left nearly penniless by the recent FTC settlement, in which the ethically challenged company agreed to stop using deceptive advertising tactics.
The FTC's spanking wasn't a surprise to New Times readers, who know the company was founded on lies that were intended to create fear.
LifeLock's heavy use of national advertising pulled in tens of thousands of customers, even as critics pointed out that it didn't do much for people that they couldn't already do themselves for free. The company took a major hit last year, though, when a federal court ruled that its main service violated the law.
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In a public statement, the FTC also lambasted LifeLock for its bad security, which officials said subjected its customers to the likelihood of -- yep -- identity theft.
In fairness, the FTC told New Times it has no evidence that LifeLock customers' info was
ever used to commit fraud or identity theft, but that the company's poor practices made it possible. LifeLock, which fares poorly on the trust-meter, in our book, claims it has shored up these practices.
In a way, the Homeland Security department and LifeLock do have something in common: lack of accountability.
If you aren't the victim of a terrorist attack or identity-theft crime, Homeland Security and LifeLock can claim credit. And if you do end up victimized, both would say they never promised it couldn't happen.