Lawsuit alleges technology on Zillow’s website amounts to ‘wiretapping’


A tracking tool used on Zillow’s website violates the privacy rights of tens of thousands of potential buyers and sellers who use the site, a new lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit filed Monday in federal court challenges Seattle-based Zillow’s use of session replay code, a common technology that allows websites to record and replay user interactions with the site to learn how they use it.

The technology amounts to “the electronic equivalent of ‘looking over the shoulder’ of each visitor to Zillow’s website for the duration of their interaction with the website,” the complaint states. Many users are likely unaware the replay exists, according to the lawsuit, which likens the practice to wiretapping.

The lawsuit alleges that Zillow uses Microsoft’s session replay technology known as Clarity and names the two companies.

Neither company commented on the substance of the allegations on Tuesday. Microsoft spokesman David Cuddy said the company is “looking into this closely.”

Zillow is “currently reviewing” the lawsuit, spokesperson Will Lemke said. “Zillow takes the privacy and security of user information very seriously. We are transparent with our users through our Privacy Policy, which explains to users the types of information we collect when they use our apps and websites.

The Seattle attorneys who filed the case did not respond to a request for an interview.

This week’s filing is one of the few similar cases across the country. Several cases in Pennsylvania have challenged the software used by Zillow, Lowe’s and Expedia, Bloomberg Law reported. Another recent case in California named Old Navy.

Last year, dozens of similar cases were filed with mixed results, according to Kristin Bryan, an attorney who works in Cleveland and New York and has represented companies defending against similar lawsuits. (Bryan declined to speak specifically about the latest case filed against Zillow and Microsoft.)

“Privacy and cybersecurity [are] a priority issue right now,” Bryan said.

The Washington case, filed on behalf of two Zillow users from South Carolina and Pennsylvania, alleges the practice violates Washington’s wiretapping law and “constitutes an invasion of the privacy rights of site visitors.” website”.

State law prohibits the interception or recording of private communications without the consent of the participants, except in certain emergency situations.

According to the complaint, the session replay code used on Zillow’s site can capture mouse movements, clicks, zooms, and keystrokes, as well as information about the properties users view, personal information users view. users enter to schedule a visit and the pages they view.

“Website visitors reasonably expect that their interactions with a website will not be disclosed to third parties unless explicitly stated,” the filing said.

Cases challenging session replay code typically revolve around whether website users have sufficiently consented to replay technology in a website’s terms of service and whether wiretap laws of the state should cover online activities like mouse clicks, Bryan said.

Frequent lawsuits that challenge tracking technology can cause companies to write broader terms of service to try to avoid being sued.

“Since last year, many commercial website operators have taken note of this increase in litigation activity,” Bryan said, “and have re-examined their practices and perhaps strengthened or supplemented their privacy policies accordingly.”

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