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McDonald’s, CBS, & Microsoft Mine|Data from Web Ads, Class Claims

MANHATTAN (CN) - McDonald's, CBS, Mazda and Microsoft use their Internet ads as a cover for data-mining, to identify the websites people visit, invading people's privacy, misappropriating their personal information and interfering with the operations of their computers, a class action claims in Federal Court. "Defendants acted in concert with [nonparty] Interclick, mining consumers' web browser histories for entries of particular relevance to defendants' respective, customized advertising campaigns," the complaint states.

Lead plaintiff Sonal Bose, of New York, N.Y., included Does 1-50 as defendants.

She claims McDonald's committed its offenses, including violations of computer privacy laws, through its online World Cup-theme game in the summer of 2010.

CBS did it in an online ad campaign for its "online fantasy sports platform" before the 2010 Major League Baseball season began; Mazda did it in ads for its summer sales and 2010 models, and Microsoft did it during a 7-month ad campaign for its Windows Smartphone, according to the complaint.

All of them worked with Interclick, which is not listed as a defendant. The complaint claims that "Interclick specialized in 'behavior advertising,' that is, Interclick tracks individual consumers to collect information about their web-browsing activities, which it compiled in individual profiles and analysis to determine which advertisements to display to which consumers. Interclick continually updates its database of consumer profiles with information acquired from and about consumers in its online advertising campaigns. ...

"Interclick augmented its profile database with individual-level information it acquired from defendants in the process of optimizing and measuring the success of advertising campaigns. For example, defendants and Interclick cooperated to identify [which] consumers are 'hand raisers' who clicked on an advertisement to visit the advertiser's website, register to enter the advertisers' sweepstakes or play online games, or make purchases.

"Interclick's profiles are stored and analyzed in a data warehouse designed to allow Interclick to mine and correlate the large volumes of highly granular consumers data it acquires."

The class claims Interclick has "maintained consumer profiles since June 2007," and that it "significantly increased its data warehousing and analysis capabilities in early 2010. Interclick has stated that it 'organizes and valuates billions of data points daily to construct the most responsive digital audiences for major digital marketers.'"

The class claims that the defendants and Interclick "used browser history sniffing to identify defendants' competitors with whom consumers communicated," and that "all the consumer information Interclick acquired while executing an ad campaign for any one defendant was merged into Interclick's consumer profile database and subsequently used for behavioral targeting on behalf of all defendants."

Bose seeks statutory and class damages for computer fraud and abuse, violations of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, violations of state business law, trespass to personal property, breach of implied contract, and tortious interference with contract. The class also wants all its personal data collected in this way deleted, wants the defendants enjoined from doing it again, disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, and notice and a choice about whether they want their data mined. It is represented by David Stampley with KamberLaw.

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