A Mississippi woman charges Boston and Cambridge companies conspired with AOL to figure out how to track consumers online even if they turned all their cookies off and has, of course, sued them.
In a lawsuit filed yesterday in US District Court in Boston, Sandra Person Burns charges Brightcove of Cambridge and ScanScout of Boston figured out a way to use Flash on her computer to track her Web activity for year. She is seeking to become the lead plaintiff in a class-action suit against the two companies and AOL, which uses their platforms. The suit claims damages of more than $5 million.
Defendants commandeered Plaintiff's computer, repurposing its software and using her computer storage and her Internet connection to bypass her browser controls. Defendants created a shadow tracking system on her computer, effectively decommissioning the browser cookie controls she had explicitly set. Defendants did so repeatedly, for years, for a significant part of Plaintiff's Web-browsing, and did likewise to millions of consumers, for years.
Brightcove runs servers and software that let companies post videos online. ScanScout provides a platform for embedding ads in those videos.
In her complaint, Hinds said she would delete all her cookies and browsing history at least five times a week. She said she realized something was odd after a trip to a local supermarket:
Last summer, Plaintiff bought chair pads for her kitchen chairs while shopping at a large chain grocery store. At a self-service checkout kiosk, she swiped her store loyalty card and paid for the chair pads with a credit card and also swiped her store loyalty card. Shortly after Plaintiff returned home with her purchase, she checked her e-mail. She was very surprised to receive a Web-enabled e-mail message containing an advertisement from an online merchant for the same chair pads she had just bought.
Plaintiff subsequently discovered that, despite her use of browser controls, Defendants had been tracking her online activities and had stored a number of files on her computer.
The files Defendants stored on her computer were not browser cookies. They were Adobe Flash Local Stored Objects (LSOs).