LOS ANGELES (CN) – An advertising firm’s Media Stamp program exploits HTML5 on iPhones and other hand-held mobile devices by collecting data that allow advertisers to track users’ “browsing movements across the entire Internet,” a class action claims in Federal Court. “All of this happens before Plaintiffs even have a chance to say ‘no thank you.'”
Manhattan-based Ringleader Digital allegedly describes its Media Stamp program as “the mobile equivalent of an online cookie,” which is how advertisers typically track web users’ preferences. Ringleader simply applied this concept to iPhones and other mobile devices that use HTML5 to operate their web browsers, the lawsuit claims.
HTML5 contains local storage databases where websites can store information on the mobile devices to enhance browsing.
“Defendants, specifically Ringleader Digital, found a way to exploit these databases for their own advantage,” the complaint states.
“When a mobile device that uses Media Stamp is accessed, Ringleader’s own databases collect information from the mobile device and the Media Stamp technology assigns Plaintiff’s mobile device a ‘unique’ identifying number,” the lawsuit states. “Ringleader stores this number on its database and also uses the HTML5 storage databases on the users’ hand-held mobile device to store the assigned ‘unique’ identifying number.”
The class says the ID numbers allow Ringleader, advertisers and web publishers “to track a user’s browsing movements across the entire Internet and not just one particular site.”
The plaintiffs say Ringleader “is having little difficulty selling its product” to the owners of companies like Surfline, CNN, Travel Channel, Accuweather, Whitepages.com, Go2 Media, Medialets and Merriam-Webster’s i.word.com — all named as defendants.
Though immensely useful to advertisers, Media Stamp poses “obvious privacy concerns,” the class claims, because it allows web publishers and ad firms to track users’ browsing habits without their permission.
Even if users find the HTML5 database on their phones, they can’t delete it, because it “simply recreates itself only moments later,” according to the lawsuit.
“[O]nce Ringleader Digital ‘stamps’ a mobile device, that unique number and the database assigned for that number are forever a part of the device without ever requesting the Plaintiffs’ permission to do so,” the complaint states.
Class members are suing for privacy violations, unfair competition, and computer fraud and abuse. They demand punitive damages and an order barring the defendants from using the so-called “flash cookies” without their consent.
Lead counsel is Daniel Tamez with Gnau & Tamez in San Diego.