Consumer Law

Sears Ends $10 'Spyware' Program for Getting Customer Computer Info

The Federal Trade Commission has approved a final consent decree concerning what Ars Technica terms a “spyware” program maintained by a retailing giant to obtain information from its customers about their computer use.

In exchange for a $10 payment, customers and Sears and Kmart, which are owned by the same company, agreed to have not only their use of the Internet and e-mail monitored but to provide non-Internet computer information, the law blog recounts. Although the nature of the program was disclosed in a 54-page document detailing the terms of use of the “online browsing” that would be tracked, the disclosure wasn’t prominent enough to make clear to customers what they really were agreeing to, the FTC found.

A copy of the settlement (PDF) between Sears Holdings Management Corp. and the FTC is provided by Ars Technica. Sears is to destroy data collected under the program and agrees not to conduct another such program without proper disclosure.

The blog post doesn’t include any comment from the retailer.

Related coverage:

Forbes: “Scrapping Privacy to Save News”

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