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Suit to Snuff Out "History Sniffing" Takes Aim at Tracking Web Users

Published on December 6, 2010
by Jessica E. Vascellaro

A lawsuit filed Friday for alleged use of “history sniffing,” a method for surreptitiously detecting what websites a person has visited, is the latest to take aim at technologies that harvest Internet users’ personal information.

A lawyer for two California residents said they filed suit against the owner of adult website YouPorn, alleging that it had violated cybercrime and consumer-protection laws by using the method, which is drawing increased scrutiny from regulators and academics.

The suit, among the first to target history sniffing, alleges that YouPorn used technology that can “peek in on the plaintiffs’ Internet-visitation history” by exploiting a vulnerability in Web browsers and failed to disclose to users that the site was doing so. The suit filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, seeks unspecified damages and an injunction to stop YouPorn from using the technology. Plaintiffs David Pitner and Jared Reagan, both of Newport Beach, Calif., allege that their privacy was violated by YouPorn and are seeking class-action status for their suit.

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