A Pennsylvania consumer has filed proposed class action lawsuits against the operators of Michaels.com, AutoZone.com and Chewy.com over their allegedly unlawful use of “session replay” software to track website visitors’ activities.
The three similarly worded cases respectively claim that Michaels, a craft store; AutoZone, an auto parts supplier; and Chewy, a pet supply retailer, have violated a Pennsylvania privacy law that prohibits the interception of consumers’ electronic communications without their consent.
According to the lawsuits, the defendants each employ software that records visitors’ interactions with their websites, including mouse movements and clicks, keystrokes, search terms, inputted information, and pages and content viewed.
Per the suits, the session replay software is not merely an analytics tool but “sophisticated” technology that allows a website operator to “contemporaneously intercept, capture, read, observe, re-route, forward, redirect, and receive incoming electronic communications to its website.” The cases contend that the session replay software goes beyond traditional tracking tools and essentially records “a video of a [website visitor’s] entire visit” to a site, and even allows a website operator to watch a visitor’s interactions in real time.
“Unlike typical website analytics services that provide aggregate statistics, the session replay technology utilized by Defendant is intended to record and playback individual browsing sessions, as if someone is looking over a Class member's shoulder when visiting Defendant’s website.”
According to the complaints, the breadth of data collected by the defendants via session replay software “far exceeds” the technology’s stated purpose of uncovering “broken website features.” Indeed, the technology allows Michaels, AutoZone and Chewy to essentially put together “a detailed profile” of each website visitor and use that information “to make a profit” through advertising, the suits argue.
“Upon information and belief, at least one of the purposes of Defendant’s interception of Plaintiff’s and the Class members’ electronic communications was to allow Defendant to learn of Plaintiff’s and the Class members’ personal preferences and likes, which would then be used to market Defendant’s services and goods to Plaintiff and the Class members,” the lawsuits explain.
Those who visit the defendants’ websites are unaware that their electronic communications are being intercepted given the companies never ask permission to collect their data, the cases say. The lawsuits argue that this surreptitious data collection can lead to consumers’ personal information being leaked to third parties, which in turn can expose the individuals to “identity theft, online scams, and other unwanted behavior,” the suits say.
The lawsuits look to represent Pennsylvania residents who visited Michaels.com, Autozone.com or Chewy.com and whose electronic communications were intercepted by one of the defendants (or on their behalf) without the site visitor’s prior consent.
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