back to article US mega retailer settles spyware charges

One of the biggest US retailers has agreed to settle charges brought by federal authorities that it snuck privacy-stealing software from ComScore onto customers' machines. Sears Holding Corporation, owner of Sears, Roebuck and Co. and Kmart, has agreed to delete all the information harvested by the software, which pried into …


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  1. RW

    Right and wrong

    It is remarkable how often business does something so incredibly wrong.

    I begin to think that anyone in business - especially in professional lying and snooping, aka marketing - should be subjected to careful psychological testing to ensure that they understand the difference between right and wrong. This particularly applies to directors, executives, and senior managers.

    It seems like business ethics these days have devolved to "if we think we might make a buck out of it, it's all okay."

    Disgusting. You may color me "hopelessly old-fashioned."

  2. Gwen Cover

    Why, when a company does it...

    Why when a company does this sort of thing is it all just forgiven and forgotten and yet if I were to do the same thing as an individual citizen I would face years of imprisonment and fines that could financially ruin me for life?

    I for one and really getting tired of the double standard.

  3. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Always look at the agreement

    If the agreement is 50 pages long or not clear, you are dealing with the wrong company.

  4. Anonymous Coward


    Another usless regulater 'lets them wriggle off the hook'.

    And they have no union (europe) to kick there gov's ass for being so slopy.

    And deleting the information they have... what after they have moved it to a diffrent place?

    I think it would be simpler to say that monitoring anybodys secure connections with out a warrent is illegal, that would mess them all up.

    Though for the day "Make the Fine cover the cost of the Jail time".

  5. Frank Silver badge

    @Gwen Cover re. Why, when a company does this

    "...yet if I were to do the same thing as an individual citizen..."

    Ask yourself "how much money have I given to my local/city/national politicians in donations/bribes/gifts lately?" Admit it, it's not much if anything is it? So you really can't expect to be treated leniently for criminal actions.

  6. Cameron Colley

    Corporations are above the law.

    In the US at least corporations are not really subject to rule of law -- the only thing they must care about is share value.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    >And as we've pointed out before, the ComScore snoopware goes as far as

    >monitoring a user's precise mouse movements and keystrokes in an attempt to

    >identify different people using the same monitored machine.

    So basically they installed trojans on the machines?

    People should be in jail for this.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Is the testing that you want somewhere along the lines of the testing for a leader of a country - If you want to do it, you are automatically the sort of person who should under no circumstances be allowed so to do. :)

  9. TeeCee Gold badge
    Thumb Down

    Re: Arrrggg

    "And they have no union (europe) to kick there gov's ass for being so slopy."

    Let me fix that for you:

    "And they have no union (europe) to argue about it interminably, levy a huge fine on the government in question for not doing more about it and then invent a convoluted excuse to explain why they rescinded said fine when the government in question told 'em to shove it where the sun shineth not."

  10. Ash
    Thumb Down

    54 pages, 2971 words? Really?

    I've just written an essay for my Law degree which was 2000 words, and took up 5 pages in 11pt font. Privacy Policies / T's and C's are NOTORIOUS for being in smaller font size than that...

    A small point, but one which seems like there's not a lot of common sense being applied to sources' information.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Looks like another backhander...

    ...look we made a mistake, here's a few quid, let's say no more......wink wink...

    Let's face it, if they hadn't been found out and there hadn't been a public outcry. Do you think they would of changed their behaviour?

    No, me neither.

    Just like the MP's. Only sorry because they got found out.

  12. mike tucker
    Thumb Down


    Problem is although the action were totally misleading the customers did agree to the terms (they may not of read then though), so the company did not illegal as such

    That does not mean what they di was totally wrong (whihc it was)

  13. Anonymous Coward


    NOBODY should be gathering the type of information this company has gathered, users permission or not.

    The FTC MUST prosecute the directors of ComScore and Sears Holdings for their illegal activity. Even if the T&Cs had been explicit and direct (e.g. a one pager), the implications of the snooping are beyond the comprehension of most user, making this a highly disreputable operation.

    Monitoring mouse movements? Secure pages? Prosecute NOW!

  14. Lionel Baden


    they must have used long words to confuse people :D

    anyway who really read t&c's ...

  15. MinionZero

    Another example of why Phorm should be considered as illegal

    "NOBODY should be gathering the type of information this company has gathered, users permission or not."

    Yeah I was thinking Phorm is aiming to do this kind of thing to the whole UK!

  16. Peyton

    Web pages are not always A4

    The "54 pages" might have meant the user had to click "next" 53 times to get to the relevant content.

  17. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Its not that simple...

    The reason the FTC didn't go full bore and even consider criminal prosecutions is that Sears is a legitimate company. Behind Wal*Mart, its one of the largest retailers.

    The FTC would have had to shown that individual(s) knowingly violated the law. With respect to Sears, they may have crossed the line, however it would be very expensive and difficult to prove that certain individuals knowingly broke the law.

    Sears used their lawyers to write the agreement such that it *disclosed* what it was doing, however deceptive their tactics were. The whole mess could not really be attributed to a single individual's decision or actions.

    I'm not defending Sears however just pointing out that any attempt to actually file criminal charges would have been a waste of time.

    All we can do is create better consumer protection laws and impose stronger penalties.

    Also on a side note... Sears has been putting out a lot of job notices for senior IT executives. Things under K-Sears' management isn't so great and I'm sure those individuals who were responsible are pretty much out of a job.

    Thumbs up because you know that no other major retailer will be stupid enough to try this stunt and it will hopefully put Comscore out of business.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    No more BS

    How do you remove this and what is Sears and their accomplice company doing to make sure it is safely, effectively removed from every computer?

    @Ian Michael Gumby

    "prove that certain individuals knowingly broke the law"

    That's what email subpoena discovery is all about.

    "The whole mess could not really be attributed to a single individual's decision or actions."

    Yeah, it's probably some overpaid, my shite don't stink VP.

    "All we can do is create better consumer protection laws and impose stronger penalties"

    Yeah, like some real jail time and somebody's bonus money.

    "you know that no other major retailer will be stupid enough to try this stunt "

    Every heard of Sony rootkit?

  19. Pablo


    Honestly, I think this calls for criminal charges. If violating FaceBook's ToS can be considered hacking, this sure as hell is too. If they get away with "Oh, sorry, we'll delete it.", what's going to stop them from pulling the same nonsense again next year?

  20. Anonymous Coward

    Phuck me!

    Kent Ertegrul and his cronies would be proud.

  21. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge


    You live in a fantasy world.

    Sony Rootkit? Who went to jail over that?

    Look, in real life you take what you can get.

    Sure I'd love to see the former CEO of Sears get cuffed and sent to jail along with the Senior VP of Marketing, the CIO and their in house counsel. (I believe this happened prior to the acquisition by K-Mart) But the reality is that you can't charge someone and then use discovery to prove your case. You have to have a case first.

    The FTC did sue and this is their settlement rather than face a risky trial where you have a good chance of Sears walking away scott free.

    Its not a perfect world.

  22. Trevor

    @Ian Michael Gumby

    "Its not a perfect world."

    And so your solution is to simply accept this without even the attempt to change that world? How proud of yourself you must be.

    The solution here isn't to turn a blind eye yet another time to yet another corporation, smile, and prepare to do the same yet again when another corporation steps over hte line.

    The solution is to start changing the laws such that corporations (And the people that both own and run them) bear the same legal responsibilities as do the "proles." If I go to jail for killing someone, so should the people in charge of and owning a corporation. For each and every law this basic rule should apply.

    The time has come to put the farce of corporatism behind us, and hold those in power responsible. It's not a perfect world, so let's all work very hard to try to make it closer to one.

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