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    FTC Ends Tactics of Online Advertising Company That Deceived Consumers

    The Federal Trade Commission announced a settlement with online advertising company Chitika Inc.:

    The FTC reached a settlement with online advertising company Chitika, Inc. that ends the company’s allegedly deceptive practice of tracking consumers’ online activities even after they have chosen to opt out of online tracking on Chitika’s website.

    The FTC investigated Chitika as part of its ongoing efforts to protect consumers’ privacy online. Chitika, whose website states that it delivers three billion ad impressions a month, acts as a go-between for websites and advertisers. According to the FTC complaint, Chitika buys ad space on websites and contracts with advertisers to place small text files called cookies on those websites. Chitika also uses a technique known as behavioral advertising – by placing “cookies” on consumers’ computer browsers, the company tracks consumers’ activities on the web, including searches the consumer has conducted and sites the consumer has visited. Based on consumers’ online activities, the company then displays ads to them that correlate to their interests. […]

    According to the FTC complaint, from at least May 2008 through February 2010, Chitika’s opt-out lasted only 10 days. After that time, Chitika placed tracking cookies on browsers of consumers who had opted out and targeted ads to them again. The FTC charged Chitika’s claims about its opt-out mechanism were deceptive and violated federal law.

    The settlement bars Chitika from making misleading statements about the extent of data collection about consumers and the extent to which consumers can control the collection, use or sharing of their data. It requires that every targeted ad include a hyperlink that takes consumers to a clear opt-out mechanism that allows a consumer to opt out for at least five years. It also requires that Chitika destroy all identifiable user information collected when the defective opt out was in place. In addition, the settlement requires that Chitika alert consumers who previously tried to opt out that their attempt was not effective, and they should opt out again to avoid targeted ads.

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