USNews Faces Data Privacy Class Action Over Unauthorized Visitor Browser Tracking

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U.S. News & World Report Hit With A Class Action Lawsuit For Allegedly Capturing Visitors' IP Addresses Without Permission

A California man is suing U.S. News & World Report alleging the company illegally tracks visitors to its website usnews.com.

Plaintiff Jonathan Gabrielli filed a proposed class action lawsuit against U.S. News & World Report L.P. on March 5 in a New York federal court, alleging violations of the California Invasion of Privacy Act [CIPA]. 

Gabrielli says when users visit the company’s website, it causes five different trackers to be installed on their internet browser – without their consent. All of these websites collect the user’s IP address, which could identify a person’s general location. 

“By installing and using these trackers without plaintiff’s prior consent and without a court order, defendant violated CIPA,” the lawsuit states.

What is CIPA?

The CIPA law was enacted to protect the privacy rights of California citizens. 

According to the lawsuit, the trackers that usnews.com installs on website visitors’ browsers violate the law because they operate as “pen registers.” In summary, a pen register is a device that records outgoing signal or address information. 

For example, if a user sends an email, a “pen register” might record the email address it was sent from, the lawsuit explains. CIPA bans anyone from installing a pen register without a court order, it adds. 

“Plaintiff brings this action to prevent defendant from further violating the privacy rights of California residents, and to recover statutory damages for Defendant’s violation of CIPA,” it says. 

Website users didn’t consent to being tracked

According to the lawsuit, U.S. News & World Report and the five tracking companies — the Audiencerate Tracker, Omnitag Tracker, Sharethrough Tracker, TripleLift Tracker, and GumGum Tracker — used the information collected through their allegedly illegal tracking to boost their revenue. 

They allegedly did this by analyzing website data and using that data to conduct targeted advertising

The lawsuit says, at any given time a user visits the usnews.com website, the company will cause one of the trackers to be installed on their browser for the purpose of collecting IP addresses. 

“Plaintiff and Class Members did not provide their prior consent to Defendant to install or use the Trackers on their browser.”

A wave of pen register lawsuits

The U.S. News & World Report proposed class action follows a wave of similar lawsuits alleging companies have violated the CIPA through using pen registers. 

Since November, California residents have brought more than 50 class actions in California state courts against a number of website operators alleging they violated the state law by installing pen register software, Bloomberg reports. Other recent defendants include retailers Anine Bing Corp., Stitch Fix Inc. and Primer Labs Inc.

In this case, Gabrielli seeks to represent a class of California residents who accessed the usnews.com website in California and had their IP address collected by any of the trackers.

He’s seeking certification of the class action, damages of $5,000 per person, per violation of the law, interest, fees and a jury trial. 

The plaintiff and proposed class is represented by Yitzchak Kopel Alec M. Leslie Max S. Roberts of Bursor & Fisher P.A. 

The U.S. News & World Report Privacy Class Action Lawsuit is Gabrielli et al., v. U.S. News & World Report L.P., Case No. 1:24-cv-01685 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. 

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