Amazon Settles Privacy Case


Amazon has settled a lawsuit alleging that it circumvented the privacy settings of Internet Explorer users, according to court papers filed on Thursday. Details of the settlement, including any financial terms, have not been made public.

The deal puts an end to a case originally filed by Nicole Del Vecchio and Ariana Del Vecchio in March 2011. They alleged the online retailer got around the privacy filters built into Internet Explorer by "spoofing" the browser into classifying Amazon as offering more privacy protections than it did.

Since 2001, Internet Explorer has allowed users to automatically reject certain cookies, including tracking cookies, but this feature only works when Web site operators provide accurate data about their privacy policies. (That feature is different from the new do-not-tracksetting in IE10).



But a Carnegie Mellon University study that came out before the lawsuit detailed how Web companies thwart privacy settings by providing incorrect data to Microsoft's Internet Explorer. That report stated that many operators "are misrepresenting their privacy practices, thus misleading users and rendering privacy protection tools ineffective." Amazon allegedly was among those operators. Rather than using a readable code, Amazon's compact policy was "gibberish," the lawsuit alleged.

The Del Vecchios also accused Amazon of circumventing their privacy settings by placing Flash cookies on their computers for tracking purposes. Flash cookies were originally designed to allow sites to remember users' preferences for online video players and other Flash-based applications. But some sites also use them to track users.

Until recently, Flash cookies were harder for many users to delete than HTTP cookies.

Last year, Amazon convinced U.S. District Court Judge Robert Lasnik in Seattle, Wash., to dismiss the case on the ground that the Del Vecchios didn't allege they were harmed by Amazon.

The Del Vecchios revised their papers in January. Shortly afterward, Amazon asked Lasnik to throw out the amended lawsuit. But the case was settled before he ruled on that request.

The case was filed as a class-action, but Amazon settled the lawsuit before it was certified as a class-action.


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