With the rise of cookies, every application and website now can collect millions of personal users' data. That has led to the proliferation of data which is sold to service providers without the actual consent of the user themself. Tech giants like Facebook came under scanner for this when the company was found to misuse data, malpractice and invasion of privacy. This led to Facebook being sued on numerous counts and taken to court.
Oracle is also in the midst of a similar turmoil after a group of privacy advocates sued the company for wrongfully collecting and selling the private data of hundreds of millions of people and allegedly violating California state law and United States federal law.
The named plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Michael Katz-Lacabe, Jennifer Golbeck and Johnny Ryan, who alleged that Oracle’s practices violate the Federal WireTap Act.
“Oracle’s misconduct has put Plaintiffs’ and Class members’ privacy and autonomy at risk, and violated their dignitary rights, privacy, and economic well-being,” according to the lawsuit, as reported by CRN.
The plaintiffs don’t seem to have a direct relationship with Oracle and have no reasonable way to consent to any alleged surveillance. Katz-Lacabe is a California-based privacy rights activist and founder of the Center for Human Rights and Privacy. Goldbeck is a resident of Florida and associate professor at the University of Maryland, College Park, with specialities in social networks, privacy and web security. Johnny Ryan is an Ireland-based senior fellow with the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) and the Open Markets Institute and an ex-chief innovation officer at Irish Times.
The lawsuit considers Oracle America, headquartered in Austin, Texas as a defendant - calling the entity a ‘data broker’ who has sold digital dossiers to 5 billion people worldwide, generating more than $42 billion in annual revenue.
As per the lawsuit, the two plaintiffs who live in the United States received documents from Oracle this year that indicate the company built electronic profiles on them based on internet browsing and activity, making their information available to third parties without consent.
“Oracle tracks the lives of the general public in a manner that is opaque, if not invisible, to the people it follows, as they have no direct relationship with Oracle. The regularly conducted business practices of defendant Oracle America, amount to deliberate and purposeful surveillance of the general population via their digital and online existence,” said the lawsuit.
It is a system which has been established to collect data on regular basis. Oracle tracks everything from people’s names and home addresses to what brick-and-mortar stores they visit and preferred payment methods for goods. Oracle gathers this information through cookies, tracking pixels, device identification, cross-device tracking and buying data from outside parties. Oracle then analyses the data and sells it, according to the lawsuit.
According to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs seek class action certification, punitive damages, nominal damages, restitution from Oracle, and permanently stopping Oracle from collecting the personal information of affected people. They seek more than $5 million from Oracle through the lawsuit.
Meanwhile, Oracle is facing similar challenges in the Netherlands which seems to present a strong case that it's not in America but similar practices are being conducted in Europe too. With strict data laws still in the works, it would be interesting to see how the lawsuit unfolds.