Class Alleges Giant Spyware Scheme
(CN) - Internet service provider WideOpen West installed spyware on its broadband networks that "funneled all users' Internet communications - inbound and outbound, in their entirety - to a third-party Internet advertisement-serving company, NebuAd," a class action claims in Chicago Federal Court. "NebuAd and WOW used the intercepted communications to monitor and profile individual users, inject advertisements into the Web pages users visited, transmit code that caused undeletable tracking cookies to be installed on users' computers, and forge the 'return addresses' of user communications so their tampering would escape the detection of users' privacy and security controls," the class claims.
The only named defendant is WideOpen West Finance LLC (WOW). The class claims WOW gave NebuAd virtually unlimited access to the personal information of at least 330,000 people.
The information included credit reports, political affiliations, job searches and even movie rental choices. NebuAd paid WOW for each person they spied on, and used the information to deliver customized ads based on people's Internet search preferences, the class claims.
The class adds that WOW lied to Congress in August 2008 when it said that it had made an agreement with NebuAd, but that NebuAd had not use the information to get access to and use people's phone numbers and addresses.
WideOpen also lied to its customers by telling them that their personal information was safe, thank to a bogus "opt-out" policy, the class claims.
It claims WOW misinformed its customers: "please rest assured that WOW does not and will not share personally identifiable information with any advertiser," and told them that they would receive ads that would be less relevant to them if they opted out.
The class demands that WideOpen hand over all the money it received from NebuAd, for distribution to the class. It wants WideOpen ordered to delete all of their stored personal information, plus restitution and damages for invasion of privacy, unjust enrichment, eavesdropping and violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
The class is represented by Michael Aschenbrener with KamberEdelson.