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FTC settles with marketer over privacy violations

06 Dec 2012
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The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has settled a case over alleged privacy violations by an online marketing firm accused of tracking user browsing patterns on 45,000 websites.

The commission said that it had agreed to a deal with Epic Marketplace which will prevent the company from eavesdropping on user history.

According to the FTC, the company had used "history sniffing" practices to collect information on user history and track browsing activity. The company had used the tracking cookies to gather information on users from some 45,000 sites.

In addition to abandoning the use of tracking cookies, the firm will be forced to delete any data is has collected on users from the practice. Going forward, Epic will face a fine of up to $16,000 for each violation of the settlement.

"Consumers searching the internet shouldn’t have to worry about whether someone is going to go sniffing through the sensitive, personal details of their browsing history without their knowledge,” said Jon Leibowitz, FTC chairman.

"This type of unscrupulous behaviour undermines consumers' confidence, and we won’t tolerate it."

The FTC has stepped up pressure on marketers who use tracking techniques to illegally gather data on users. Earlier this year the commission agreed to a $22.5m fine against Google over its practice of tracking user activity on Apple's Safari browser.

In March, the commission said that it would be launching a workshop to help companies avoid unintentionally violating user privacy laws.

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Shaun Nichols

Shaun Nichols is the US correspondent for He has been with the company since 2006, originally joining as a news intern at the site's San Francisco offices.

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