Wednesday, January 9, 2008 and Disregard Customer Privacy

Only a couple weeks after facebook was scrutinized for tracking user's online activity through its Beacon application and then posting it on the site for the world to see, it now turns out that and have been tracking their users online habits and reporting them to online marketers.

Ars Technica (Boston) reports:

The story goes like this: late last year, and began asking sers if they wanted to participate in a "community" online (presumably a community made up of Sears and Kmart aficionados). In late December, security researcher Benjamin Googins at Computer Associates noticed, however, that the "community" actually installed software from comScore, a market research firm, in order to track the web activities of the sites' visitors


Googins stated on his company's blog that Sears had installed spyware which transmitted everything-"including banking logins, email, and all other forms of Internet usage"-to comScore for analysis. This was all allegedly done with no notice that anything was being installed, and it ran contrary to documentation about the community that said any data collected would stay within Sears' hands at all times.

But wait, there's more! In an update to his original post, Googins noted that Sears actually offers a slightly different privacy policy-via the same URL-to compromised computers versus those that have yet to install the software.

"If you access that URL with a machine compromised by the Sears proxy software, you will get the policy with direct language (like 'monitors all Internet behavior'). If you access the policy using an uncompromised system, you will get the toned-down version (like 'provide superior service')," he wrote.

Click here to read the text in its entirety.

Computer World interviews one consumer who expresses his surprise with Sear's actions:

"It's pretty amazing that in 2008 a major corporation such as Sears can show such blatant disregard for the privacy of its customers. It definitely will make me think twice before ordering from them again," said Doug Fuller, an Oakland, Calif., Realtor. "It's not like it is some rinky-dink company. This is a major corporation. And with all the identity theft going on, this is the best they can do?" he said via instant message.

No company should have the right to collect, document and distribute our personal online habits to marketers without our knowledge and we certainly don't expect trusted companies like Sears and Kmart to engage in this type of activity. Unfortunately, this proves that consumers must be wary of every online site due to the internet marketing frenzy that has taken over the internet.

Click here to read the text in its entirety.

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