NEWS5 July 2011

Flash cookie complaint brought against AOL

Legal North America

US— AOL is the latest web firm to be sued over the use of Flash cookies to allegedly work around browser privacy settings and continue tracking web behaviour against a person’s wishes

Like recently-settled claims brought against Quantcast and Clearspring, AOL is accused of using Flash cookies – technically known as local shared objects (LSOs) – as a back-up for normal HTTP cookies that have been deleted.

LSOs are designed to remember Flash Player settings across multiple browsers so are not stored in the same place as HTTP cookies, meaning many users are unaware of how to delete them (although Flash developer Adobe has upgraded the Player to make it easier to wipe Flash cookies).

In the complaint, brought by Mississippi resident Sandra Person Burns, defendants AOL, Brightcove and ScanScout are alleged to have created “a shadow tracking system on [Burns’] computer, effectively decommissioning the browser cookie controls she had explicitly set”.

Burns is seeking class-action status for the lawsuit which has been filed in the US District Court in Massachusetts.