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MISSOURI FILES PRIVACY SUIT AGAINST NET MERCHANT

Source: News.com

Posted on October 8, 2000

      The state of Missouri has filed a lawsuit against Internet merchant More.com, accusing the site of giving personal information about consumers to third parties after promising it would not do so. Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon filed the lawsuit in September in Greene County Circuit Court against More.com, a business that sells health care and nutrition products through its Web site. The company also owns five online specialty stores, including Clearly Contacts for eye products and Acumins for vitamins.

      San Francisco-based More.com was not available for comment.

      According to a statement from Nixon's office, the Web site contains a privacy policy stating in part that "More.com does not give, sell or rent your personal information to third parties for purposes other than fulfilling your request."

      Nixon decried the practice of Web sites selling consumers' personal information to other businesses when the sites' privacy policy "clearly states that information won't be shared," he said in a statement. "Consumers have a right to be upset when the companies giving them assurances of privacy and nondisclosure are not keeping their word."

      Nixon also alleges that More.com deceives consumers visiting its site by not informing them that the site contains "Web bugs," or clear GIFs, tiny images embedded in a Web page or HTML-enhanced email that transmit information to a remote computer when the page is viewed. Web bugs have borne the brunt of recent criticism by privacy groups. Earlier in September the Privacy Foundation, a nonprofit privacy group based in Denver, issued a new set of industry guideline proposals demanding that Internet advertising companies and Web sites disclose the use of Web bugs wherever they are found online.

      Leading up to the lawsuit, an investigator with the attorney general's office using an assumed name attempted to order contact lenses through More.com's Web site. He was unsuccessful in placing the order but was subsequently contacted under the assumed name and solicited by LensExpress for the purchase of contact lenses. The investigator had not contacted LensExpress under that assumed name, the attorney general said.

      Nixon is asking the court to issue an injunction prohibiting More.com from representing to consumers that their information will not be shared with third parties if, in fact, it is. He also is asking the court to order any penalties, court costs, and investigative and litigation costs the court may find appropriate.




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