A San Francisco federal judge has approved a settlement in a class-action lawsuit that enjoins a Web analytics company from hacking users’ computer software and browser tools to track their Internet activity without their knowledge.

The class-action complaint alleged that KISSmetrics and various websites – including Etsy.com and Slideshare.net and music-streaming application Spotify – coordinated to store tracking codes in class members’ browser files.

To do so, the complaint said, the defendants repurposed the class members’ browser cache and software to store a KISSmetrics identifier.

This technique allowed to defendants to track users’ Internet activity while bypassing their computers’ security settings and privacy preferences, the complaint maintained.

For purposes of the settlement, Judge Beeler certified a class action of all individuals assigned a KISSmetrics identifier using their computer’s software and browser tools from March 4, 2011, through July 28, 2011.

Under the terms of the settlement, only the named plaintiffs released all claims against KISSmetrics, according to the order. The agreement is not binding on other class members, but the injunction baring KISSmetrics from unlawful Internet tracking activities “is appropriate respecting the class as a whole,” the settlement agreement says. 

Fox Rothschild attorney Amy C. Purcell, who handles electronic data security and privacy matters, but was not involved with the case, said the granted relief “seems to strike the right balance.” 

“The agreed upon injunctive relief protects a user’s information and browsing activity but does not completely prohibit KISSmetrics’ ability to use certain technologies,” she said.

“This order may signal that plaintiffs are beginning to gain some ground in Internet privacy cases,” Purcell said. 

In similar cases, she added, “courts grant motions to dismiss because the plaintiffs cannot prove harm or injury.”

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