Following a public comment period, the Federal Trade Commission has approved a final order settling charges that Epic Marketplace, Inc. used "history sniffing" to secretly and illegally determine whether millions of consumers had visited any of more than 54,000 domains. The domains included pages relating to sensitive medical and financial issues ranging from fertility and incontinence to debt relief and personal bankruptcy.
In settling the FTC’s complaint, Epic Marketplace, Inc., and Epic Media Group, LLC agreed to no longer use history sniffing, which allows online operators to test specific sites in a browser to see if consumers have visited those sites in the past. The companies are required to delete and destroy all data collected using the technology.
The settlement order also bars misrepresentations about the extent to which the companies maintain the privacy or confidentiality of data from or about a particular consumer, computer or device, including misrepresentations of how that data is collected, used, disclosed or shared. It additionally bars misrepresentations about the extent to which software code on a webpage determines whether a user has previously visited a website. Violations of the consent order may be subject to civil penalties of up to $16,000 per violation.
The Commission vote approving the final order and letters to members of the public who commented on it was 3-0-1, with Commissioner Joshua Wright not participating. (FTC File No. 112-3182; the staff contact is Kate White, Bureau of Consumer Protection, 202-326-2878.)
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