Two visitors to Zillow’s website filed a class action lawsuit alleging the Seattle-based company was illegal and, without their consent, wiretapped them online.
Why is this important: The claim is one of a handful of recent lawsuits alleging companies violate people’s privacy rights by recording customer interactions on their websites.
- How cases are resolved could have big implications for how companies track people’s web activity – and what steps they need to take to obtain someone’s consent before doing so.
Driving the news: The class action lawsuit, filed Monday in the U.S. District Court in Western Washington, alleges that Zillow tracks users’ web activity in a manner that amounts to illegal wiretapping.
- The claim alleges that Zillow, the online real estate marketplace, uses a third-party tool from Microsoft to track mouse movements, keystrokes and other actions of visitors on Zillow’s website.
- Microsoft — which is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit — then creates a video replay of the visitor’s entire website session, which is provided to Zillow for analysis, the lawsuit says.
- The result is “the electronic equivalent of ‘looking over the shoulder’ of every visitor to Zillow’s website,” according to the complaint.
- Such “conduct is highly offensive and reprehensible to a reasonable person and constitutes a gross violation of social norms that underpin the right to privacy,” the complaint states.
The other side: A spokesperson for Zillow said the company is reviewing the lawsuit and “takes the privacy and security of user information very seriously.”
What to watch: A Microsoft spokesperson said the company is “investigating this closely,” but did not comment further.
To note : In Pennsylvania, three similar lawsuits were recently filed against Zillow, Lowe’s and Expedia.