Analytics company comScore provides data on everything from smartphone marketshare to social network adoption, but those figures could come at a heavy cost to user privacy. That's the allegation set out in a lawsuit filed against the company in 2011; this week, the case was awarded class action status. Lawyers acting on behalf of two individuals claim that comScore surreptitiously and intrusively collects user information via tracking software before selling it on to third parties; the company's OSSProxy software is often installed on computers alongside other free downloads.

Suit alleges that confidential data is only "fuzzified"

The plaintiff argues that OSSProxy goes beyond the scope of its user license agreement by logging crucial data such as bank details, passwords, and Social Security numbers. While comScore claims it removes all personal identifiers from what is eventually sold on, the suit says the confidential data is only "fuzzified," with comScore failing to “make commercially viable efforts to purge” the sensitive information. In addition to the potential violations of privacy, the lawsuit alleges that OSSProxy can slow down internet access, change security settings, and cause computers to crash, and there are also suggestions that the software is less than upfront about how it installs itself in the first place.

ComScore responded to the case in 2011 by accusing legal firm Edelson McGuire of bringing frivolous suits against large companies with the aim of securing settlements. This week, however, the Illinois judge decided there was merit in the case — at least in part. Class action status was awarded for all claims relating to violations of the Stored Communication Act, Electronic Privacy Communication Act, and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, potentially covering millions of comScore software users up to a maximum of $1,000. A claim of unjust enrichment, on the other hand, was rejected on the basis that varying state laws render it inappropriate for a federal class action. Even so, a lawyer for the case told Computer World that it could be "the largest privacy case to ever go to trial in terms of class size and potential damages."