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    Wall Street Journal: Lawsuit Targets an Online Data Collection Technique

    The Wall Street Journal reports on a lawsuit concerning collection of Internet users’ data:

    Two California residents filed suit against the owner of adult website YouPorn, alleging it had violated cybercrime and consumer-protection laws by using surreptitious technology to harvest information about what websites they had visited.

    The suit, which a lawyer for the plaintiffs said was filed late Friday in the U.S. District Court of the Central District of California, is one of the first to target a practice called “history-sniffing,” which is drawing increased scrutiny from regulators and academics.

    The technique generally relies on the fact that Internet browsers display web links in different colors based on whether the user has visited the particular link before. By running some code inside a user’s web browser, a company can tell whether certain sites have been visited and create a profile of where someone has been online without them knowing.

    The complaint alleges that YouPorn used history-sniffing to “peek into the Plaintiffs’ Internet visitation history” by exploiting a vulnerability in Web browsers and failed to disclose they were doing so to users. It seeks unspecified damages, an injunction against YouPorn and class action status. […]

    Many other suits and much recent regulatory scrutiny has focused on “cookies,” small text files that are placed on users’ Web browsers when they visit Internet sites. Companies can use cookies to assemble profiles about users’ likely interests for targeting ads.

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