Chicago Privacy Lawsuit Highlights Ongoing Issues Involving Technology

A privacy lawsuit in Chicago accusing comScore, an online tracking and analytics firm, highlights the ongoing issues involving technology and privacy.

Intellectual property and technology attorneys in Chicago are seeing an increasing number of such cases. From privacy concerns involving Facebook, to allegations against Apple for tracking users of iPads and iPhones, technology continues to complicate privacy issues. Last year, Google's Street View car also came under fire after it accidentally collected reams of data from unsecured Wi-Fi networks.

In this case, the proposed class-action lawsuit accuses comScore of numerous alleged violations, including:

-Secretly collecting social security numbers.

-Collecting consumer data without permission.

-Changing security settings and opening backdoors into user systems.

-Stealing information from electronic documents.

-Redirecting user traffic.

-Injecting code into computer applications.

The Chicago Tribune reports that credit card information and passwords are also involved.

Two plaintiffs -- one from California and one from Illinois -- have filed suit claiming violation of their rights to privacy. The lawsuit seeks an injunction and damages, alleging that the company violated the Stored Communications Act , the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and other statutes.

"The scope and breadth of data that comScore collects from unsuspecting consumers is terrifying," the 30-page complaint alleges.

A spokesperson for comScore denied the allegations and promised an aggressive defense. The company said it makes "commercially viable efforts" to purge itself of private consumer data whenever it's inadvertently collected.

comScore is a publicly traded company that provides Internet audience measurement statistics and customer tracking. It provides the information to some 2,000 customers, including advertising agencies and commerce sites.

The software behind such technology is usually downloaded onto a user's computer via other free products -- such as screen savers. In some cases, the user downloads the product to win entry into sweepstakes or because of other inducements.

It's the second high-profile tracking issue to surface in recent days -- earlier this month Microsoft came under fire after a Stanford University report accused the company of using "supercookies," to persistently track users. Microsoft agreed to immediately disable the technology.

Privacy advocates continue to sound the alarm -- particularly as more and more sensitive activities move online -- including banking and medical records. Several lawmakers have begun to consider Do Not Track legislation, which would permit consumers to opt-out in a fashion similar to Do No Call regulations. Still, privacy issues are bound to continue as new technology uses consumer data in a way never before anticipated.

The case is Mike Harris and Jeff Dunstan, individually, and on behalf of a class of similarly situated individuals v. comScore Inc, case no. 11-cv-5807. It was filed in U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois.

Jeremy A. Gibson & Associates is a law firm dedicated to business and technology litigation in Chicago and elsewhere in Illinois. Call 877-452-4529 for a free consultation.

Additional Resources

Lawsuit accuses comScore of extensive privacy violations, By Jaikumar Vijayan, Comupterworld.