Feeds

Netizens sue NebuAd, data pimping ISPs

More woe for American Phorm

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

Fifteen American netizens have sued behavioral ad targeter NebuAd and several of its data pimping ISP partners, alleging wiretapping, packet forgery, and browser hijacking.

Filed Monday in a California federal court, the class action accuses NebuAd and its partners of violating the US Electronic Communications Privacy Act, the US Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, California’s Invasion of Privacy Act, and California’s Computer Crime Law. And that's just a start.

Using deep packet inspection, NebuAd's ISP-level hardware tracks a web surfer's search and browsing activity and shuttles it to various advertising networks, where it's used to target ads. If you search for, say, French vacations, you'll soon see ads for French vacations.

By the late spring, NebuAd had deployed its hardware inside several mid-sized American ISPs. The Silicon Valley outfit claimed these partners explicitly notified customers before turning the system on, but this wasn't always this case. NebuAd did provide a cookie-based opt-out and claimed to anonymize all user data with a one-way hash, but the law may require an opt-in.

In mid-May, after weeks of press coverage, Congress publicly questioned the legality of ISP-level ad targeting, and lawmakers eventually asked all American ISPs to put their data pimping plans on hold. By August, NebuAd had downsized its workforce, and in September, after Congressman Ed Markey accused him "beating consumers," CEO Bob Dykes declined to go down with the ship.

Monday's lawsuit names NebuAd, its Fair Eagle subsidiary, and six ISPs: Bresnan Communications, Cable One, CenturyTel, Embarq, Knology, and WOW (formerly WideOpenWest).

"The collection of data by the NebuAd device was wholesale and all-encompassing," the suit reads. "Like a vacuum cleaner, everything passing through the pipe of the consumer's internet connection was sucked up, copied, and forwarded to the California processing center.

"Regardless of any representations to the contrary - all data - whether sensitive, financial, personal, private, complete with all identifying information, and all personally identifying information, was recorded and transmitted to the California NebuAd facility."

The suit goes on to question whether user data was actually anonymized and claims that even if it was anonymized, it was done so too late. "Any alleged anonymization of subscriber’s identity during any phases after the point of initial interception of the online communication," the suit continues, "did not 'anonymize' the intentional initial interception of online communication."

The complaint, which seeks class action status, also cites research from net crusader Robb Topolski in alleging packet forgery and browser hijacking. ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
TEEN RAMPAGE: Kids in iPhone 6 'Will it bend' YouTube 'prank'
iPhones bent in Norwich? As if the place wasn't weird enough
Consumers agree to give up first-born child for free Wi-Fi – survey
This Herod network's ace – but crap reception in bullrushes
Crouching tiger, FAST ASLEEP dragon: Smugglers can't shift iPhone 6s
China's grey market reports 'sluggish' sales of Apple mobe
Sea-Me-We 5 construction starts
New sub cable to go live 2016
New EU digi-commish struggles with concepts of net neutrality
Oettinger all about the infrastructure – but not big on substance
PEAK IPV4? Global IPv6 traffic is growing, DDoS dying, says Akamai
First time the cache network has seen drop in use of 32-bit-wide IP addresses
EE coughs to BROKEN data usage metrics BLUNDER that short-changes customers
Carrier apologises for 'inflated' measurements cockup
Comcast: Help, help, FCC. Netflix and pals are EXTORTIONISTS
The others guys are being mean so therefore ... monopoly all good, yeah?
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.