A resident of New York has sued McDonald's, CBS, Mazda and Microsoft for acting in concert with the advertising agency Interclick to collect data from Internet users' web surfing history.


The complaint was filed Tuesday with the US District Court for the Southern District of New York by Sonal Bose, who sued Interclick in early December of 2010, according to MediaPost Publications.

Her lawsuit claims that the four companies violated the federal computer fraud law, wiretap law and other statutes by using "history sniffing" technologies in their advertising campaigns.

Interclick tracks Internet users to collection information about their web browsing history, which the company uses to determine which advertisements to display to the user, according to the lawsuit.

Internet marketers use a small data file known as a cookie to track the web history of Internet users and deliver relevant advertisements. The use of cookies to collect this type of data has become ubiquitous on the web, but the files are almost always downloaded without the users' knowledge or consent.

"Interclick engages in browser history sniffing on behalf of Defendants, to obtain information about entities with whom consumers have communicated and with whom Interclick and defendants have no affiliation," the lawsuit alleged.

"All the consumer information Interclick acquired while executing an ad campaign for any one defendant was merged into Interclick's consumer profile database and subsequently used for behavioral targeting on behalf of all defendants."

"Interclick's profiles are stored and analyzed in a data warehouse designed to allow Interclick to mine and correlate the large volumes of highly granular consumers data it acquires," the lawsuit added.

In response to the lawsuit, the advertising company said it "continually endeavors to be sensitive to the privacy concerns of our customers and the general public."

"The allegations in the lawsuit are factually inaccurate and do not accurately reflect Interclick’s technologies and privacy practices," a spokesperson told Kashmir Hill of Forbes. "We will vigorously defend ourselves against this unfounded lawsuit."

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) proposed the creation of a "Do Not Track" registry for Internet users in early December, modeled on its highly effective National Do Not Call Registry.

Jon Leibowitz, the FTC chairman, said the proposed "Do Not Track" registry would be a "universally easy-to-use mechanism for consumers that would run through the FTC or could be run through some sort of private entity."

"It's a really promising idea that would empower consumers to choose their own level of privacy protections," he added.