The U.S. Federal Trade Commission ordered online advertising company Epic Marketplace Inc. to stop using “history sniffing” technology that allowed it to collect data on the Internet browsing habits of millions of consumers.
In a settlement announced today, the agency also ordered Epic Marketplace to destroy all the information it gathered unlawfully from consumers.
“Consumers searching the Internet shouldn’t have to worry about whether someone is going to go sniffing through the sensitive, personal details of their browsing history without their knowledge,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz in a statement. “This type of unscrupulous behavior undermines consumers’ confidence, and we won’t tolerate it.”
“The history sniffing was deceptive and allowed Epic to determine whether a consumer had visited any of more than 54,000 domains, including pages relating to fertility issues, impotence, menopause, incontinence, disability insurance, credit repair, debt relief, and personal bankruptcy,” the FTC said.
Epic Marketplace labeled consumers with interest categories such as “Incontinence,” “Arthritis,” “Memory Improvement,” and “Pregnancy-Fertility Getting Pregnant” and then sent consumers targeted advertisements based on the category, the FTC said.