News Room

Software Company Hit With Privacy Suits Over ‘Supercookies’

The Recorder
June 22, 2015

SAN FRANCISCO — Plaintiffs lawyers at Kabateck LLP have jumped into a spate of privacy litigation against Redwood City’s Turn Inc. with a class action claiming that the digital marketing company tracked and stored the Internet browsing histories of Verizon Wireless Inc. customers.

According to a complaint filed Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court, Verizon injected unique tracking numbers into subscribers’ browser requests when they accessed websites through the company’s mobile network.

The Kabateck lawyers maintain that Turn attached a so-called supercookie to those tracking numbers to log subscriber activity, build personal profiles and sell targeted ads. The supercookies would regenerate even if users deleted them from their mobile devices, according to the complaint.

The lawsuit, which includes claims of trespass, invasion of privacy and violations of California’s Unfair Competition Act, asks that Turn pay restitution and damages. The suit also seeks an injunction barring the company from continuing to collect, store and sell Verizon customers’ browsing patterns.

The suit filed Friday is one of a number Turn and Verizon have faced since the existence of the supercookie was first reported by Pro Publica in January. Plaintiffs firm Clanton Legal Group sued both Verizon and Turn in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi on behalf of all U.S. Verizon customers in February, but voluntarily dismissed the case a little more than a month later.

The Clanton firm joined a group headed by Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein’s Michael Sobol in April to sue Turn in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on behalf of a class of New York Verizon subscribers. That suit doesn’t name Verizon.

Even so, Turn’s lawyers at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati have argued in their motion to dismiss that plaintiffs agreed to arbitrate any disputes rising out of their Verizon service. (Verizon, which has appeared as an amicus in the Northern District case, is represented by counsel at Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans & Figel and Munger, Tolles & Olson.)

Brian Kabateck of Kabateck LLP said his team will fight the “insidious” tactic of forcing consumer protection suits loosely related to telecom companies into arbitration—at least for California Verizon customers.

“We think that this kind of practice that we’ve alleged in the complaint is contrary to California policy,” Kabateck said. “We are convinced that they were making money off the class’ information and that to the extent that they profited from that, they should be required to turn over those profits.”

Wilson Sonsini’s Michael Rubin, who has been leading Turn’s defense in the Northern District of California, didn’t immediately respond to messages Monday.