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ComScore Faces Huge Privacy Class Action Suit

On June 11, 2013, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago denied comScore’s request to overturn a lower court’s decision allowing the suit to proceed as a class action suit. This effectively paves the way for a privacy class action suit to proceed against the digital business analytics firm. Now, comScore finds itself facing what could be the largest privacy class action lawsuit ever. The analytics company provides data on everything from smartphone marketshare to social network adoption. However, its user privacy practices were a bit spotty, as the lawsuit claims.

Background

The suit was initially filed in August 2011 by two comScore panelists who downloaded the company’s software. They alleged that comScore collected and sold consumer’s personal information, including Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, financial information and retail transactions.

Edelson LLC, the Chicago law firm representing plaintiffs Mike Harris and Jeff Dunstant, allege that comScore’s software violates the Stored Communications Act, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Practices Act. They are seeking injunctive relief and damages of $1,000 per violation.

Lawyers acting on behalf of Harris and Dunstant argue that comScore surreptitiously and intrusively collects user information through tracking software before selling it on to third parties. The companies OSSProxy software is often installed on computers along with other free downloads. They argue that OSSProxy goes beyond the scope of its user license agreement by logging crucial data, such as bank details, passwords and Social Security numbers.

ComScore has claimed that it removes all personal identifiers from what is eventually sold. However, the suit argues that the confidential data is only “fuzzified,” with the firm fialing to “make commercially viable efforts to purge” the sensitive information.

In addition to potential privacy violations, OSSProxy can also slow down internet access, change security settings and cause computers to crash. There are also allegations that the software is less than upfront about how it installs itself on a user’s computer in the first place.

Since the suit could cover everyone who has downloaded comScore software since 2005, the class action suit could potentially have tens of millions of plaintiffs, according to law firm Baker Hostetler.

“No privacy case of anything approaching this size has ever been certified,” argued comScore in its appeal. The Association of National Advertisers, the 4A’s and the Direct Marketing Association supported comScore’s petition that the case should not go ahead as a class action suit.

Request Denied

The Seventh Circuit issued an order denying comScores request, advancing the class action suit to trial, most likely by the end of 2013. As expected, the firm intends to fight the case. According to its official statement:

“This is not a negative finding on any action on the part of comScore. We will continue to educate the court on our practices, which we have had a limited opportunity to do given the procedural nature of the matters before them to date.”

Summary

This article takes a look at Harris v. ComScore, what looks to be one of the largest privacy class action lawsuits ever. In August 2011, Mike Harris and Jeff Duntstant alleged that comScore collected and sold consumer’s personal information, including Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, financial information and retail transactions. Now that the case has been advanced to trial, this paves the way for a record-breaking privacy class action to proceed against the digital analytics company.

CIPP Exam Preparation

In preparation for the Certified Information Privacy Professional/United States (CIPP/US), a privacy professional should be comfortable with topics related to this post, including:

  • Incident response programs (I.C.c.)
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