There's an old joke: How do you know it's going to be a bad week? The receptionist tells you that the "60 Minutes" film crew is in the lobby to see you.
A "60 Minutes" query was what executives at the auto-shopping data company Dataium faced this month.
The Nashville venture, which supplies automakers and dealers with data about consumers' online shopping behavior, has been coping with controversy for the past few months.
Angie Sherrell, Dataium managing director, welcomed the "60 Minutes" call and welcomes the curiosity.
"A lot of people don't understand what we do and I'm eager to get the word out," says Sherrell, who joined the company after retiring from Gulf States Toyota Inc. in Houston last year. "And a lot of dealers don't realize what we're offering them yet."
The controversy comes from consumers and government agencies who wonder if third-party data miners such as Dataium are selling private details from consumers' home computers.
"We are not," Sherrell emphasizes.
In November, Dataium settled a year-old complaint with the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs' Office of Consumer Protection over a one-time project for a third-party data firm.
The state alleged that Dataium had sold another company the names, phone numbers, e-mail addresses and vehicle preferences of 400,000 consumers without notifying them.
Dataium agreed to pay a $400,000 settlement, $301,000 of which was suspended in exchange for Dataium's promise to adequately inform car shoppers that their visit to a site will be logged, and offering them a way to opt out of the data.