Web tracking firm collected personal data

Posted by Kate Taylor

A web analytics company has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charges that it used its web-tracking software to collect personal data.

Information collected reportedly included credit card data and Social Security numbers - without alerting users.

Boston-based Compete will now be required to obtain consumers’ express consent before collecting any data from Compete software downloaded onto their computers. It must also delete or anonymize the use of the consumer data it already has collected, and explain to consumers how to uninstall its software.

According to the FTC, Compete persuaded consumers to download its tracking software in several ways, including by urging them to join a Consumer Input Panel that promised rewards in return for sharing their opinions about products and services.

It also told consumers that installing its Compete Toolbar would give them instant access to data about the websites they visited.

And Compete even licensed its web-tracking software to other companies, says the FTC - including Upromise, which settled similar FTC charges earlier this year.  

Once installed, the Compete tracking component operated in the background, automatically collecting information about consumers’ online activity. This included consumers’ usernames, passwords, and search terms, as well as credit card and financial account information, security codes and expiration dates and Social Security numbers.

But it failed to disclose to consumers that it would collect detailed information such as information they provided in making purchases, and made false and deceptive assurances to consumers that their personal information would be removed from the data it collected, says the FTC.