24 Aug 2011

Consumer information company operates like a hacker, lawsuit alleges

Mike Harris of Illinois and Jeff Dunstan of California have filed a class action lawsuit against consumer information provider ComScore, alleging the company's tactics violate users' privacy and compromise their computer security.

According to the suit, ComScore collects information about consumers' internet habits by convincing users to download software that opens ports, tampers with firewalls and tracks everything from inputted search terms to usernames, passwords and credit card numbers. ComScore then passes on consumer information to its clients, which include major media outlets.

The complaint describes how Mike Harris downloaded a free screensaver, only to find ComScore surveillance software had also been installed on his Mac. Though he is highly skilled at working with computers, it allegedly took Harris hours to uninstall the software.

Dunstan says he unknowingly installed ComScore software along with a free greeting card program. He alleges the comScore software, by sending information back to the company's servers, tripped a firewall alert, preventing him from accessing the internet. He eventually paid a professional computer security expert to remove the ComScore software.

Andrew Lipsman, a ComScore spokesman, said the lawsuit is baseless and full of factual errors, Computerworld reports.

Rupert Murdoch, owner of ComScore clients the Wall Street Journal and Fox News, came under fire this summer after one of his British papers, News of the World, closed down following revelations its reporters engaged in widespread phone hacking.