Lawsuit accuses Zillow and Microsoft of wiretapping
Two visitors to Zillow's website have filed a class action lawsuit alleging the Seattle-based company illegally, and without their consent, wiretapped them online.
Why it matters: The claim is among a handful of recent lawsuits alleging that companies are violating people's privacy rights as they record customer interactions on their websites.
- How the cases are resolved could have big implications for how companies track people's web activity — and the steps they must take to obtain a person's consent before doing so.
Driving the news: The class action suit, filed Monday in the U.S. District Court for Western Washington, alleges that Zillow tracks users' web activity in a way that amounts to illegal wiretapping.
- The claim alleges Zillow, the online real estate marketplace, uses a third-party tool from Microsoft to track visitors' mouse movements, keystrokes and other actions on Zillow's website.
- Microsoft — which is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit — then creates a video replay of the visitor's entire website session, which is provided to Zillow for analysis, the lawsuit says.
- The result is "the electronic equivalent of 'looking over the shoulder' of each visitor to the Zillow website," according to the complaint.
- Such "conduct is highly offensive and objectionable to a reasonable person and constitutes an egregious breach of the social norms underlying the right to privacy," the claim says.
The other side: A spokesperson for Zillow said the company is reviewing the lawsuit and "takes the privacy and security of users' information very seriously."
What to watch: A Microsoft spokesperson said the company was "looking into this closely," but did not offer further comment.
Of note: In Pennsylvania, three similar lawsuits were recently filed against Zillow, Lowe's and Expedia.