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Alexa To Pay In Privacy Dispute

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Are you an Alexa user? Then you might be entitled to receive up to US $40 in a proposed settlement that the company has made over privacy issues.

This involves anyone who installed Alexa's software, other than versions 5.0 or above. To be eligible, you have to submit a claim form by November 26, 2001. The proposed settlement would also have to be approved during a court hearing scheduled for July 27. Finally, you would need to meet the following criteria:

1) Do you have an Alexa cookie on your computer? The settlement claim form (link below) explains how to determine this.

2) The cookie also has to match up with at least one of the following items of personal information that Alexa may have recorded about you: first and last name, street address, telephone number, US Social Security number, email address. This will be verified by Alexa, presumably under the court's supervision.

3) Alternatively, you are eligible if the cookie matches up with two of these three personal items: your birth date, mother's maiden name or your user name.

What about components of Alexa that are built into Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator. The Privacy Foundation's Richard Smith, who filed the complaint against Alexa with the US Federal Trade Commission, said that those components are more privacy friendly that the full Alexa product.

"In the Netscape version of Alexa, it removes query strings before sending off URLs to Alexa servers. So, it is actually privacy friendly. This URL stripping feature is what I asked Alexa to do also, but they refused. In the Netscape version, once you use the What's Related command, it stays enabled. I think the only way to turn it off is to exit Netscape and start Netscape up again," Smith said.

As for Internet Explorer, Smith said:

"Alexa support in IE works a bit differently. It sends off complete URLs including query strings. However, it doesn't start tracking you every place you go on the Web. It only sends off the URL for the current page when you select the Related Sites command."

Alexa Settlement Information
http://www.alexa.com/settlement/

More details about the settlement offer and claim forms can be found here.

Amazon unit settles privacy lawsuit
News.com, April 27, 2001
http://news.cnet.com/news/0-1007-200-5754965.html

More about how the settlement came about from privacy concerns that were raised.

Amazon Dodges Another Bullet
InternetNews.com, May 30, 2001
http://www.internetnews.com/ec-news/article/0,,4_775621,00.html

Amazon recently escaped enforcement from the FTC over privacy issues related to its Alexa product and its now defunct zBubbles shopping.

Privacy Foundation
http://www.privacyfoundation.org/


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