Consumer News

Who is Sniffing You?

FTC takes first action against browser history sniffing company to protect consumer privacy.

What’s worse? A dog snarfling your crotch OR a company secretly sniffing out your online activities so it can send you targeted ads?  Well, according to the Established in 1914 under President Woodrow Wilson, the FTC is the United States government’s primary regulatory authority in the area of consumer protection and anti-competitive business practices in the marketplace. Its Bureau of Consumer Protection assumes the lead in the Commission’s efforts to eliminate deceptive advertising and fraudulent business practices at work in the economy., the latter is worse.  In its first settlement with a company for browser history sniffing, FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz 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. This type of unscrupulous behavior undermines consumers’ confidence, and we won’t tolerate it.

According to the agency, Epic Marketplace Inc., an online advertising company, agreed to settle Federal government agency charged with enforcing various consumer protection laws and overseeing identity-theft related matters. Information on the FTC’s identity theft programs can be found at charges that it used “history sniffing” to secretly and illegally gather data from millions of consumers about their interest in sensitive medical and financial issues ranging from fertility and incontinence to debt relief and personal bankruptcy.

The FTC settlement order bars Epic Marketing from continuing to use history sniffing technology, which allows online operators to “sniff” a browser to see what sites consumers have visited in the past.  It also bars future misrepresentations by the company and requires it to destroy information that it gathered unlawfully.

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