FTC Orders Sears To Destroy Tracking Data

    September 15, 2009

The Federal Trade Commission has ordered Sears to end a program that placed spyware on customers’ computers that would track their online browsing.

The company, which includes Sears and Kmart, offered online customers $10 in return for installing the tracking software.

Sears Security Issues

The FTC said the software monitored consumers’ online secure sessions, including those on third party websites and collected personal information from those sessions, such as the content of shopping carts, online bank statements, prescription drug records, video rental records, library borrowing histories, and the sender, recipient, subject, and size of emails.

According to the Commission, the software also tracked some computer activities that were not related to the Internet. Only in a long user license agreement, available to users at the end of a multi-step registration process, did Sears disclose the full extent of the information the software tracked. The Commission charged that Sears failed to adequately disclose the scope of the tracking software’s data collection and it violated the FTC Act.

Sears has been ordered to destroy all information previously collected and if it uses any tracking software in the future it must clearly disclose the types of data it will monitor, record, or transmit.

In addition, the disclosure must be made before installation and separate from any user license agreement. Sears must also disclose if any data will be shared with a third party.