CNET News is reporting on a class action lawsuit recently filed on behalf on a group of minors and their parents which claims that Disney Internet Media Group (named as Walt Disney Internet Group) and Disney-owned Soapnet LLC along with co-defendants Warner Bros. Records, Ustream, Inc., Clearspring Technologies, Inc., Demand Media, Inc., Project Playlist, Inc., and SodaHead, Inc. were involved in tracking users’ internet activity even while accessing websites not owned by them.
At the heart of the suit is the technology by Clearspring Technologies, Inc. which is used on the various websites of the named content providers. According to the claim and a report by UC Berkley, via CNET,the technology uses Adobe Flash-based cookies which are not controlled by the same guidelines as traditional internet browser cookies. Essentially the Flash cookies are stored separately from other cookies so deleting one set does not affect the other; in addition, ClearSpring is accused of re-spawning cookies that have actually been deleted. Using a social-media share service, ClearSpring creates the cookies that uniquely identify the computer and feed that information back to the company.
The suit also claims that the technology was able to track the same users regardless of the computer they were using at the time. According to CNET, the lawsuit claims that “the sensitive information may include such things as users’ video-viewing choices and personal characteristics, such as gender, age, race, number of children, education level, geographic location, and household income.”
The article even includes an extract from the complaint which demonstrates that one user was on a site about depression, possibly providing the companies insight into confidential issues such as health.
The lawsuit claims that Disney and the other mentioned customers of ClearSpring Technologies were actively aware of the collection of this data.