A lawsuit filed on August 23 accuses comScore of recording private consumer information (including social security numbers and payment data), manipulating computer security settings without authorization, and embedding their software in other applications.
The Details of the Claim
While the lawsuit was filed on behalf of two plaintiffs by Chicago law firm Edelson McGuire, the case is set up to become a class action suit. The suit claims that:
- Private user data is recorded by comScore without user approval. This includes "passwords, credit card numbers, and Social Security numbers," according to the Reuters report.
- comScore manipulates the firewall and other security settings on the user's computer without approval.
- The software scans all files on the user's computer and in the user's Internet network without approval.
- The software is embedded in other free applications, such as screen savers and games, without user knowledge.
The case is attempting to stop these specific practices and several others. Additionally, the plaintiffs are seeking damages for the alleged privacy violations.
The Foundation (or Lack Thereof) for the Case
Immediately after the case was filed, a comScore representative stated: "We have reviewed the lawsuit and find it to be without merit and full of factual inaccuracies. ComScore intends to aggressively defend itself against these claims."
While it could be that the plaintiffs are trying to reach into the moderately deep pockets of comScore (the company made $175 million in 2010), Edelsen McGuire specified that a great deal of research had gone into the case before it was filed.
"We retained multiple digital forensic firms, who each conducted dozens of independent tests," stated Edelsen. Additionally, that research started back in July 2010.
It's likely that the crux of comScore's defense will lie in the warning it provides to users. On sites where the software is downloaded, warnings are displayed. One such warning indicates that:
We make commercially viable efforts to automatically filter confidential, personally identifiable information such as UserID, password, credit card numbers, and account numbers. Inadvertently, we may collect such information about our panelists; and when this happens, we make commercially viable efforts to purge our database of such information.
If comScore can demonstrate that such warnings appear on all outlets where their software is distributed, the Edelsen McGuire case will lose its footing.