comScore Agrees To Settle Class-Action By Panelists

Measurement company comScore has tentatively agreed to resolve a class-action lawsuit brought by panel members who say they didn't realize the full extent of data the company collected.

comScore says in court papers filed on Monday that it has reached “an agreement in principle” with the consumers who sued. comScore and the consumers' attorneys indicate that they will come to a final agreement by next month. Terms of the tentative deal haven't been disclosed.

If finalized, the agreement will resolve a privacy lawsuit brought by panel members Jeff Dunstan and Mike Harris in 2011. They said they installed comScore's software after downloading a free product, like a screensaver or game. Both consumers argued that comScore's terms of service didn't alert them about the “terrifying” amount of data the company collects -- including usernames and passwords, search queries, credit card numbers and retail transactions.

They also contend that comScore's marketing partners -- who bundle comScore software with freeware -- often don't disclose information about comScore until after people start downloading the free programs. Dunstan and Harris argue that comScore violated various federal privacy laws by capturing information from people's computers without obtaining their informed consent.

Last year, U.S. District Court Judge James Holderman in the Northern District of Illinois issued a key ruling against comScore: He ruled that the case could proceed as a class-action and certified a class of everyone since 2005 who downloaded comScore's software from a third party.

That group could include as many as 10 million people, according to the consumers' lawyer, Jay Edelson.

At the time, Seattle-based Internet legal expert Venkat Balasubramani told Online Media Daily that Holderman's decision would likely put pressure on comScore to settle. One reason is that the relatively large number of panelists who might be affected by the case means that comScore potentially faces the risk of high damages if it loses at trial.

comScore attempted to immediately appeal Holderman's ruling to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. That move drew the backing of the Direct Marketing Association and other ad trades, but the appellate court refused to hear the case.

ComScore and the consumers are expected to file papers with the court again in June. But even if they have reached a final agreement, Holderman likely won't approve a class-action settlement until after it's publicized and people have the opportunity to weigh in with objections.

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