Verizon Tracks Users

By Courtney Coren February 12, 2015 of Top Class Actions™

Verizon Communications, Inc. is facing a class action lawsuit alleging that Verizon is engaging in deceptive practices with its “Verizon Supercookie Affiliates” program, in which it allegedly uses “supercookies” to track the habits of cellphone users.

According to the Verizon class action lawsuit filed by plaintiff Emma Michael of Mississippi on Feb. 4, which also includes mobile advertiser Turn Inc. as a defendant, Verizon has used supercookies that it has placed on the computers and cellphones of its customers for the purpose of tracking internet habits for marketing purposes.

Michael alleges in the Verizon class action lawsuit that Verizon and Turn allegedly engaged in this practice for years, which has allowed the companies to access and disclose customers’ personal identifying information.

The Verizon supercookie class action lawsuit is charging the companies with violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the Electronics Communications Privacy Act, the Video Privacy Protection Act, unjust enrichment and fraud.

“Defendants, collectively, have been systematically engaged in and facilitated a covert operation of surveillance of plaintiff and class members,” the Verizon class action lawsuit says.

Michael claims that she has been a Verizon customer for over 20 years, and she currently uses Verizon services for three phones and one keypad.

Cookies are used by companies so that remote websites can “use a consumer’s internet connection, browser software, and computer processing and storage to create and read data of its own choosing on a computer whenever the consumer downloads a web page,” the class action lawsuit explains.

But now companies use “supercookies,” which are more permanent and “extraordinarily difficult to remove,” she adds.

According to Michael’s Verizon supercookie class action lawsuit, the only protection that customers have is to “block and delete browser cookies” to protect their privacy and keep their internet devices “from being used to diminish and invade those interests.”

Michael claims that she and other Verizon customers have not consented to being tracked online “in unreasonable and unexpected ways,” and third parties do not have any right to such information that may be collected by Verizon or similar companies.

The Verizon supercookie class action lawsuit cites a report that was published by the Electronic Frontier Foundation in November 2014, which claimed that Verizon “has been silently modifying its users’ web traffic on its network to inject a cookie-like tracker,” which “allows third-party advertisers and websites to assemble a deep, permanent profile of visitors’ web browsing habits without their consent.”

The EFF explained that the Verizon supercookies are “nearly invisible” to the user and it “bypasses several other built-in browser privacy mechanisms,” which is not necessarily disabled if a a Verizon customer attempts to opt-out of such practices.

Because of this, Michael explains in her class action lawsuit, “plaintiffs and class members reasonably believed that they could rely on their browser settings to control cookies,” which is allegedly not the case.

The information allegedly collected by Verizon and Turn “was derived from the Internet user’s online activities, accomplished covertly, without actual notice, awareness, consent or choice of the user, obtained deceptively, for purposes not disclosed within their terms of service and/or privacy policy and used for commercial gain and nefarious purposes,” the class action lawsuit states.

Several lawmakers have asked the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission to conduct an investigation into the practice by Verizon.

Michael is looking to represent three classes, which she says could be in the “millions.” The Verizon Supercookie Tracking Class is a nationwide class in which Verizon has stored supercookies on either their mobile devices or computers.

The “Video Disclosure Class” is also a nationwide class for those with “identified requests for specific video materials and/or services were disclosed to third parties without such individuals’ express written consent.”

The Mississippi woman is also proposing a “Mississippi Sub-Class” for all Mississippi residents “whose Web browser privacy controls prevented or limited defendants persistent storage and use of cookies and on whose computers defendants store supercookies.”

Counsel information for Verizon is not yet available.

Michael is represented by Bradley Clanton of Clanton Legal Group PLLC.

The Verizon Supercookie Class Action Lawsuit is Michael v. Verizon Communications Inc. et al., Case No. 3:15-cv-00072, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi.

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