Friday, August 5, 2011

Spotify Now Getting Sued Over Evil Tracking Cookie...

(Updated, 8/4 late PM; Spotify responds) Welcome to America... continued. Spotify now has another lawsuit on its hands, thanks to its deployment of a nefarious, impossible-to-delete tracking cookie. This 'evil cookie,' created by Kissmetrics, goes way beyond conventional cookie functionality to embed and track user activity, and automatically regenerate upon deletion. The freshly-filed lawsuit, which is seeking class action status, also involves other Kissmetrics clients, including Hulu, GigaOM, 8tracks, AOL-owned About.me, Slideshare.net, and Spokeo.

'Cookie' only covers part of what this tracking software does to nestle into user computers, avoid detection and attempts at deletion. Now, Spotify users are wondering how to get rid of this infestation, with few answers. Spotify initially refused to respond to multiple inquiries by Digital Music News over the past week, despite attempts to contact both Spotify executives and media relations team Splendid Communications. But late Thursday night, the company offered this statement, which reaffirms the Kissmetrics removal but offers no guidance on how to remove existing installations:


“Spotify takes the privacy of its users incredibly seriously, and we expect the same of our suppliers. Like many companies, we use third party services to understand and improve upon how customers use our website and service.

"One product that Spotify has used to help us understand customer registration and purchase flow, and to make the process of using our website as easy as possible for users, is KISSmetrics.

"Following the recent report raising concerns around KISSmetrics’ treatment of cookies, we took immediate action to suspend our use of KISSmetrics and began a thorough investigation. Spotify can confirm that it has never had the ability to see or use any customer information from KISSmetrics’ other clients. Kissmetrics has assured us that none of its other clients have had the ability to see or use information about Spotify's customers.

"Spotify remains absolutely committed to safeguarding the privacy of our users.”


Last week, Berkeley researchers uncovered the Kissmetrics tracking software, and rightfully questioned its privacy implications. Now, lawyers are continuing that level of inquiry. "While it is generally reasonable to expect a website to use cookies for tracking, the Website Defendants and Kissmetrics created numerous, alternative, 'shadow' mechanisms for tracking," the suit alleges. "Defendants engaged in tracking by exploiting Plaintiff and Class Members' browsers and other software in ways that consumers did not reasonably expect."

The legal filing is here.

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