comScore Agrees To $14 Million Privacy Settlement With Panelists

Measurement company comScore has agreed to pay $14 million to settle claims that it violated panel members' privacy by collecting a trove of data about them, court documents reveal.

comScore also will revise its disclosures to panelists and will implement procedures to make sure its “bundling partners” -- companies that distribute comScore's software along with free screensavers, games or other programs -- also disclose the company's terms. comScore and the consumers said last month that they had reached an “agreement in principle,” but didn't disclose the details until Friday.

If accepted by U.S. District Court Judge James Holderman in the Northern District of Illinois, the settlement will resolve a class-action privacy lawsuit brought by panel members Jeff Dunstan and Mike Harris in 2011. They alleged that they installed comScore's software after downloading a free product, but didn't realize that the company would collect a “terrifying” amount of data -- including usernames and passwords, search queries, credit card numbers and retail transactions.

They also alleged 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 argued that comScore violated various federal privacy laws by capturing information from people's computers without their informed consent.

The settlement agreement calls for payments to panelists who downloaded comScore's software after 2005. Panelists will have to submit a claim in order to receive a pro-rated share of the $14 million.

The deal also calls for the consumers' attorneys to receive around $4.5 million.

Attorneys for panelists are asking Holderman to grant the deal preliminary approval, which is the first step toward finalizing the settlement. They say in court papers that the deal will avoid “the uncertainty and expense of trial, and the risks and delay of inevitable appeals.”

The lawyers also argue that the agreement “compares favorably to other consumer privacy class action settlements,” because consumers will receive some compensation. Other online companies -- including Google, Facebook and Netflix -- have settled privacy class-actions by agreeing to donate money to charities or nonprofits.

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