KISSmetrics, a website analytics firm, and more than 20 of its clients are being sued. Spotify, AOL's About.me, Spokeo and Slideshare.net are just a few of companies named in the suit, in association with KISSmetrics. The lawsuit was filed in a federal court in Northern California, on Monday morning, August 1, 2011, accusing the analytics firm of violating user privacy. KISSmetrics allegedly used unethical methods to track user information, even for users who've deleted their cookies. ETags, along with other technologies, including Flash, HTML5 and Silverlight, were stored in user's browser files, and supposedly read unique information about the user's browser activity.
KISSmetrics have responded with a firm denial of the accusations. An update on the company's website reads that they are no longer using the technology, as of July 30, 2011. According to the site, they have switched to standard cookie identifiers that do not track or read user activity. "KISSmetrics has never shared any information about a user with any third party, including with any customer other than the one that interacted with that user," explained Hiten Shah, KISSmetrics founder. "Our business model is uniquely pro-privacy precisely because our tools enable insights without sharing any user information across websites and without developing or storing user profiles across sites, and that for this reason, KISSmetrics offers key difference from third parties that link up user data across the internet.," he added, defending the company's methods.
The lawsuit, itself, suggests that KISSmetrics knowingly violated the law, as well as users' trust. "Defendants circumvented Plaintiffs and Class Members browser privacy controls, conducted tracking in an unreasonable and unexpected way, and used Plaintiffs and Class Members' Computer Assets to store LSOs [Local Storage Objects, similar to cookie files in Flash] and engage in other tracking exploits. . . Defendants did so knowing Plaintiffs and Class Members' reasonably believed their privacy was protected," reads the lawsuit against KISSmetrics.
Shah completely denies any credibility of the lawsuit. The company's founder directly addresses the claims, and argues that the lawsuit is unfounded, and even irresponsible. He asserts that KISSmetrics did nothing to violate the law, or the trust of its customers. "This lawsuit is completely lacking in merit. KISSmetrics has never shared user information with any third party, and its tools are specifically designed to ensure that its customers only obtain insights into the information they already have. We use standard and lawful technologies that are widely used throughout the internet, and that do not do the things alleged in the complaint. KISSmetrics has retained counsel who was successful in dismissing virtually identical claims filed by the same plaintiffs' lawyers, and we have every confidence that these claims also will be found to be entirely baseless."
One of the companies included in the suit have chimed in on the issue. Spotify challenges the lawsuit's assertions that privacy was violated, asserting that their company never received user information for KISSmetrics other companies, and that KISSmetrics has promised that no other company has received their customers' information. "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," said Alison Bonny, a spokeswoman from Spotify.