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comScore sued over 'sinister' data collection methods

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Data collection outfit comScore has rejected a lawsuit that alleges the company violates US privacy laws, by saying the claims are "without merit and full of factual inaccuracies".

On Tuesday, a suit (30-page PDF/270KB) was filed in the US District Court, Northern District of Illinois, by Chicago-based law firm Edelson McGuire on behalf of two plaintiffs who are pushing for class-action status and damages in their case against comScore.

"As one of the biggest players in the internet research industry, statistics gleaned from comScore's consumer data are featured in major media outlets on a daily basis," notes the suit.

"However, what lies beneath comScore's data gathering techniques is far more sinister and shocking to all but the few who fully understand its business practices," it goes on to claim.

"Namely, comScore has developed highly intrusive and robust data collection software known by such names as RelevantKnowledge, OpinionSpy, Premier Opinion, OpinionSquare, PermissionResearch, and MarketScore... to surreptitiously siphon exorbitant amounts of sensitive and personal data from consumers' computers.

"Through subsidiaries bearing innocuous names, comScore uses deceitful tactics to disseminate its software and thereby gain constant monitoring access to millions of hapless consumers' computers and networks."

The lawsuit is also seeking injunctions against a variety of practices that it alleges are violating a number of US laws.

It cites the Stored Communications Act, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Practices Act.

The plaintiffs claim that comScore scanned their computers and modified their security settings after they installed the software.

comScore sells its data to over 1,800 businesses worldwide and lists Yahoo!, Facebook and Microsoft among its clientbase. None of those customers are accused of any wrongdoing in the lawsuit.

The company is upfront about its operations:

Once you install our application, it monitors all of the Internet behavior that occurs on the computer on which you install the application, including both your normal web browsing and the activity that you undertake during secure sessions, such as filling a shopping basket, completing an application form or checking your online accounts ... we make commercially viable efforts to automatically filter confidential personally identifiable information such as UserID, password, credit card numbers, and account numbers. Inadvertently, we may collect such information about our panelists; and when this happens, we make commercially viable efforts to purge our database of such information.

"We have reviewed the lawsuit and find it to be without merit and full of factual inaccuracies. comScore intends to aggressively defend itself against these claims," said the company in a brief statement to The Register. ®

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