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Privacy policies frequently have phrases like this one:

<ACME Co.> will not share your non-public personal information with unaffiliated third parties without your consent

To a layman like me, this feels like the ultimate cop-out, and a bit tautological. Am I wrong in assuming that simply making a data-sharing agreement with another company is sufficient to make them "affiliated"? In other words, my understanding of this clause is equivalent to:

We won't publicly share your non-public data

If there are other real protections offered by clauses like this, what are they?

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  • These terms would almost always be defined in the agreement.
    – ohwilleke
    Mar 3 at 21:49
  • @ohwilleke In my admittedly brief search through various privacy policies, the majority use "affiliate" or "nonaffiliated third party" without providing any definition. In fact, "affiliate" frequently is used to define other terms. Mar 4 at 15:24

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It seems my initial assumption was incorrect -- "affiliate" does not apply to every party you have business dealings with. It implies some sort of ownership or control relationship.

Looks like this phrasing is influenced by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, a U.S. financial regulation which frequently references "nonaffiliated third parties", though even FTC pages about the Act mostly avoid defining what an affliate is. Just looking in legal dictionaries and this exam study guide from the FTC, I can see the most common definitions:

A "nonaffiliated third party" is any person except a financial institution's affiliate or a person employed jointly by a financial institution and a company that is not the institution's affiliate. An "affiliate" of a financial institution is any company that controls, is controlled by, or is under common control with the financial institution.

A small sample of privacy policies indicates that many companies assume a broadly understood definition of affiliate, though a few do state a definition or hint at what it means.

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