Welp, Disney is getting sued for tracking people apparently….
Walt Disney’s internet subsidiary and several of its partners have been sued for allegedly using cookies based on Adobe’s Flash Player to track highly personal information about their users, many of whom were minors.
I know almost nothing about this other than those words above, but my BS thermometer is in the red. Wait, maybe I’ll research more….
The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles against Walt Disney Internet Group, Clearspring Technologies, Warner Bros. Records, and several other companies, alleges that the companies shared cookie tracking information and failed to warn users regarding the information sharing agreements. Using Flash cookies to re-identify users overrides this control, with little available redress for users,” the complaint states. “Although users may arguably protect themselves by periodically deleting their Flash cookies as well, the means for doing so are extremely obscure and difficult even for savvy consumers to use.
The thermometer is starting to crack now. I’m all for privacy on the internet, as in “god I hope no one suddenly shows up in my office right now”, but the notion that you are completely anonymous while web browsing is crazy. Its like walking into a shopping mall and expecting people to treat you as if you’re invisible. Then when someone offers you a backrub or free cookie sample, you get huffy because you’re entitled to your invisibility (that never existed to begin with).
So here’s some of the possible information that could have been collected and used to target the consumer with (god forbid) customized advertising. Tell me if you agree or disagree with these possible cookies, and how they could be used.
- Video quality viewing preferences – Good, remember what I like. In fact, if you play a trailer at 480p when you know I like 720p, I’ll be mad.
- Gender – I love being a dude. I’m probably interested in your dude stuff for sale.
- Age – If you got some stuff only a 33 year old (dude) would like, I’m probably interested
- Number of Children – It’ll cost how much to fly with 2 children?!? Wait, thats a good deal.Tell me more.
- Education Level – I’m not even sure of this, but I think I’ve got a Bachelors in something or other. If I don’t see an ad for a high school Trapper Keeper ever again, I’m good with that.
- Household Income – This could be used to show me an ad for a Golf Resort Timeshare or 2-For-1 Laser Tag coupon. How nefarious.
- Geographic Location – I’d much rather see a local Atlanta ad than one for a national campaign. Case in point, Dali is at the High Museum right now. Remind me, because I’ll forget again in an hour.
- Sexual Preference – I think everyone would prefer to have this saved (correctly) and remembered on every cookie on every website forever. Oh if you’ve got the Number of Children I have and their Gender (boy), show them what I like.
Okay those are the no-brainers I think. Here’s the challenge ones.
- Race – I’ll admit it would be a pretty uncool, racially un-diverse world if every ad I started seeing had only white people. But here’s an interesting usage you might agree with. Music. What if the website or ad you were viewing had music targeted to you culturally.
- First Name – You won’t scare me if I visit a site and my first name welcomes me on the homepage.
- Last Name – Okay, now you are scaring me. Unless you use it to sell me some kind of bathrobe monogramming. In which case, the lettering should have more flair.
- Email Address – Well, there’s already TONS of spam laws in place for how email addresses get shared and used, so if you save me time on a form by autofilling in my email, I can forgive that. But we are certainly getting into questionably turf now.
- Telephone Number – Ditto the above.
- Health Conditions – Okay, okay, internet privacy advocates, you win this round. I don’t want Disney telling anyone I can only urinate if I smell bacon cooking in the other room (don’t laugh, I read that someone really had that problem)
Anyone, my point here is that I just don’t see many lawsuit worthy infractions that could be possible from using Flash cookies, but this will be a fun case to hear more about. I’d love some specifics.