Feeds

Netscape ruling a boost for online privacy

SmartDownload equivalent to a free newspaper, says judge

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

The essential guide to IT transformation

The case against online snooping by AOL through its SmartDownload software has had a further boost thanks to the decision by a federal judge that people are not bound by the company's online contract as they did not actively agree to it.

The SmartDownload software comes packaged with Netscape Communications (AOL bought Netscape in 1998) and was found to log user downloads and send the data (including file name, file server and user IP address) to Netscape without informing the user. If you were signed up with Netscape it would also send your email address.

Judge Alvin Hellerstein decided that since Netscape didn't require people to click a button to express their consent when downloading the software, they aren't bound to the licence agreement. The decision removes a main plank from AOL's defence.

The judge said: "From the user's vantage point, SmartDownload could be analogised to a free neighbourhood newspaper, readily obtained from a sidewalk box or supermarket counter without any exchange with a seller or vendor. It is there for the taking."

In the case brought originally by Christopher Specht and later by John Gibson, Michael Fagan and Sean Kelly, it was claimed that AOL (Netscape) has illegally monitored personal details and so broken federal interception laws.

AOL's defence will now have to rely upon the fact that it did nothing intentionally wrong and that it acted in good faith when it removed SmartDownload in the next version of the Communicator software.

Which way the case will go is anyone's guess but this decision is certainly a boost for online privacy with the judge effectively making any company liable for their software does if it doesn't specifically ask users to sign up to their contract. ®

Related Stories

Netscape SmartDownload opens up PCs to attack
Netscape's SmartDownload court case hots up
Netscape complainant speaks to The Reg
So just how guilty is Netscape?
AOL faces snooping court case

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

More from The Register

next story
Microsoft exits climate denier lobby group
ALEC will have to do without Redmond, it seems
Caught red-handed: UK cops, PCSOs, specials behaving badly… on social media
No Mr Fuzz, don't ask a crime victim to be your pal on Facebook
Barnes & Noble: Swallow a Samsung Nook tablet, please ... pretty please
Novelslab finally on sale with ($199 - $20) price tag
Ballmer leaves Microsoft board to spend more time with his b-balls
From Clippy to Clippers: Hi, I see you're running an NBA team now ...
Kate Bush: Don't make me HAVE CONTACT with your iPHONE
Can't face sea of wobbling fondle implements. What happened to lighters, eh?
Video of US journalist 'beheading' pulled from social media
Yanked footage featured British-accented attacker and US journo James Foley
Amazon takes swipe at PayPal, Square with card reader for mobes
Etailer plans to undercut rivals with low transaction fee offer
Assange™: Hey world, I'M STILL HERE, ignore that Snowden guy
Press conference: ME ME ME ME ME ME ME (cont'd pg 94)
Call of Duty daddy considers launching own movie studio
Activision Blizzard might like quality control of a CoD film
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration
Avoid the typical headaches of OS migration during your next project by learning about 7 elements of radically simple OS migration.
BYOD's dark side: Data protection
An endpoint data protection solution that adds value to the user and the organization so it can protect itself from data loss as well as leverage corporate data.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?