When Jessica Pineda checked out via credit card at a Williams-Sonoma store in California, the store clerk requested her ZIP code. Pineda provided it, only to find that the store used that information, combined with her name, to learn her street address and send her marketing catalogs. Pineda then filed a class-action lawsuit, alleging that Williams-Sonoma violated a California law that bans marketers from asking credit card purchasers for personal identification information. This week, the California Supreme Court agreed with Pineda.
The Federal Trade Commission recently called on Web companies to create a mechanism that allows consumers to opt out of tracking by behavioral advertising companies that serve ads to users based on the sites they've visited. As of today, three browser manufacturers have answered that call. Google's Chrome, Mozilla's Firefox and Microsoft's Internet Explorer 9 have all released their own versions of do-not-track. None of the three, however, are foolproof.
To resolve a privacy lawsuit brought by Amazon and the ACLU, the state of North Carolina has agreed to stop asking all e-commerce sites for information about state residents who have made online purchases.
As expected, the Federal Communications Commission voted today to revise an $8 billion funding program by shifting subsidies from companies that provide telephone service to broadband providers.
Online data aggregator and broker Spokeo has come in for criticism by privacy advocates who argue that the company makes available financial data about Web users without also providing the protections of federal law governing credit bureaus -- like allowing people to correct inaccuracies.
The digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation is once again sounding the alarm about the Federal Communications Commission's open Internet rules. The organization says that it isn't opposed to net neutrality in principle. The problem, says the EFF, is that the Commission can't impose neutrality regulations without first claiming authority over broadband. But once the FCC asserts jurisdiction over the Internet, it might then attempt to regulate the Web more broadly -- such as by imposing indecency rules.
Last October, a Spanish appellate court ruled that sports site Rojadirecta didn't infringe on copyright by offering links that allowed users to find streams of sporting events. That decision apparently didn't carry much weight with the U.S. authorities. This week, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement seized Rojadirecta's domain name, along with the URLs of nine other sites that allegedly infringe copyright by offering streams of sporting events.
The prospect of an easy-to-use browser-based opt-out for behavioral advertising advanced this week with Mozilla's release of a preliminary version of a do-not-track header. But this newest tool is only an early -- and potentially buggy -- version of the header. An even bigger obstacle for people who want to test the feature is that it's still unknown whether ad networks will honor it.
A coalition of digital rights groups is backing ivi TV, a start-up online video distributor, in its legal battle with television broadcasters and content providers.