Michigan A.G. goes after Web cookies
- By Daniel Keegan
- Jun 14, 2000
Michigan Attorney General Jennifer Granholm has threatened legal action
against four World Wide Web publishers, alleging that each site fails to
warn customers that they are being tracked by a third party.
Granholm said these sites fail to tell customers that a third-party company
is placing "cookies," or small programs that automatically upload on the
individual's computer that track the visitor's surfing.
"I think it is clear that these invisible tracking devices are following
where people are going online, and the consumer is not warned," said Tracy
Sonneborn, assistant attorney general in the Consumer Protection Division.
The Notices of Intended Action were issued June 12, alleging a violation
of the Consumer Protection Act, against Procrit.com, a medical site which
provides information including for AIDS patients; Babygear.com, targeting
young parents and babies; Stockpoint.com, a financial site; and Internet
Friends Network, an adult site.
The Attorney General targeted the sites specifically for their sensitive
subject matter and to reach consumers. "We gathered the sites that represented
different content specifically aimed at different audiences for the purpose
of raising consumer awareness," Sonneborn said.
that the consumer is being tracked by a third party company or do not provide
a policy at all, the state said.
books, for example, are not in violation of the law, Sonneborn said, because
consumer's willingly go to the site and know they are tracked, he said.
The sites have 10 days to contact the Attorney General's office and work
out "middle ground," Sonneborn said. That would most likely include a better
privacy statement and possible other disclosures. If the companies do not
respond, then a civil lawsuit will be filed, and the companies could be
forced to stop using cookies without proper disclosure and fined up to $25,000.