Judge Tosses Flash Cookies Suit Against Specific Media

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world_avenue_suit_small.jpgADOTAS – Another page is turned in the Flash Cookies saga. Yesterday a federal judge dismissed a suit against Specific Media over its use of Flash Cookies after determining the plaintiffs had no legal basis to support their claims.

Last August, six web users filed suit against Specific Media in the U.S. District Court in the Central District of California for using Flash Cookies for tracking purposes and thereby violating federal and state wiretap laws.

The suit came in the wake of an academic study that found 50% of sites researched were using Flash Cookies — originally developed to retain user data for Flash-based applications — to collect user information. Lawsuits were filed en masse against ad tech companies like Quantcast and Clearspring as well as major media companies like Disney, Fox Entertainment Group and NBC Universal. Quantcast and Clearspring admitted to using Flash Cookies to collect user data, but internal analytic purposes, not tracking or ad targeting.

The most damning accusation in the report, however, was that some publishers and advertising companies used Flash Cookies — which are stored in a different browser location than HTML cookies, and therefore are not deleted when a user (can’t resist this) tosses his/her cookies — to resurrect deleted HTML cookies, which certainly are used for targeting ads.

The suit against Specific Media claimed the company was up to such notorious behavior to “obtain personal identifying information, monitor users, and to sell users’ data.” Specific filed a suit to dismiss in March, and a month later the cookie case has been (wait for it) tossed.

Flash Cookies, which Adobe refers to as “local shared objects” (LSOs), have long been a source of controversy in terms of online tracking. Consumer Protection Chief David Vladeck commented last year that his agency was “currently examining practices that undermine the tools that consumers can use to opt out of behavioral advertising,” a not-so-veiled reference to Flash Cookies.

Responding to online privacy advocate calls for more user control over Flash Cookies, Adobe developed an API for clearing LSOs from a browser as well as all plugins that install the API. In addition, the company updated its Flash Player Settings Manager to allow users to decide which sites (if any at all) they want to employ LSOs.

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