FTC bars advertising firm from sniffing browser histories
The online advertising company allegedly spied on consumers' visits to health, bankruptcy-related websites, agency says
IDG News Service - An online advertising firm accused of spying on the browser histories of consumers has reached a settlement with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission barring it from further browser history sniffing, the agency announced.
Epic Marketplace illegally gathered information from millions of Web users, including information about medical and financial issues such as fertility, incontinence, debt relief and personal bankruptcy, the FTC alleged.
The settlement with the FTC, announced Wednesday, bars Epic Marketplace from continuing to use history sniffing technology and requires the company to destroy information it gathered illegally, the FTC said in a press release.
The websites for Epic Marketplace, based in New York City, and parent company Epic Media Group, were down Wednesday. Epic Media Group stopped posting on its Twitter feed more than a year ago. IDG News Service was unable to reach the companies for comment, although the company in 2011 blamed the history sniffing on a legacy advertising system it acquired a year earlier.
Epic Marketplace operated a large advertising network with a presence on 45,000 websites, the FTC said. Those who visited any of the network's sites received a cookie that allowed Epic to serve consumers ads targeted to their interests, the agency said.
"Consumers searching the Internet shouldn't have to worry about whether someone is going to go sniffing through the sensitive, personal details of their browsing history without their knowledge," FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said in a statement. "This type of unscrupulous behavior undermines consumers' confidence, and we won't tolerate it."
The FTC accused Epic of a deceptive business practice. The history sniffing allowed Epic to determine whether a consumer had visited more than 54,000 domains, including pages relating to fertility issues, impotence, menopause, incontinence, disability insurance, credit repair, debt relief, and personal bankruptcy.
Epic used the tracking to send targeted ads related to several health issues, the FTC said.
Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 15 Non-Certified IT Skills Growing in Demand
- How 19 Tech Titans Target Healthcare
- Twitter Suffering From Growing Pains (and Facebook Comparisons)
- Agile Comes to Data Integration
- Slideshow: 7 security mistakes people make with their mobile device
- iOS vs. Android: Which is more secure?
- 11 sure signs you've been hacked
- IDC Report: The Future of eMail is Social This paper discusses the changing nature of collaboration and work fueled by the social Web by examining current email trends and the emergence...
- The Business of Social Business Social business represents a significant transformational opportunity for organizations. Read this whitepaper to learn more.
- Six Ways Your Small Business Can Save with Internet Phone Service Traditional phone systems present two main problems for businesses: limited features and high costs. As a result, small businesses are migrating to Internet...
- Pay-as-you-Grow Data Protection: IBM Tivoli's Full-featured Data Protection Suite for Small to Medium Businesses IBM Tivoli Storage Manager Suite for Unified Recovery gives small and medium businesses the opportunity to start out with only the individual solutions...
- Supercharge Your Web and Mobile App Development with High-Productivity Hybrid Cloud Webinar: Hear from industry experts about the amazing power at the intersection of next-generation web and mobile application development and cloud platforms.
- Meg Whitman presents Unlocking IT with Big Data During this Web Event you will hear Meg Whitman, President and CEO, HP discuss HAVEn - the #1 Big Data platform, as well... All Internet White Papers | Webcasts