Science & Technology



Should you get paid when websites record your mouse clicks? Here's what a judge said

Ron Hurtibise, South Florida Sun Sentinel on

Published in Science & Technology News

Three South Florida firms represented Goldstein in the suit against Costco, court record show. They are Miami-based Shamis & Gentile, P.A.; Fort Lauderdale-based Hiraldo P.A.; and Edeslberg Law P.A., based in Aventura.

Attorneys for the two sides did not respond to emails seeking comment for this story.

In his ruling, Ruiz said the plaintiff sought to persuade the court to reinterpret the wiretapping law, which bars interception of the “contents” of any wire, electronic or oral communication through the use of any electronic, mechanical or other device. The law specifically excludes “any communication from an electronic or mechanical device which permits the tracking of the movement of a person or an object,” Ruiz wrote.

Mouse clicks, pages viewed, scroll movements and other actions do not convey contents or communication, Ruiz said, adding that software that tracks movements on websites is the cyber equivalent of a security camera at a brick and mortar store.

Similar claims have been filed over the past year against large commercial companies throughout the United States, particularly in California and Florida, according to a March blog entry by attorneys with Philadephia-based Ballard Spahr P.A., which specializes in business litigation, including cybersecurity claims.


Most of the cases have been dismissed based on similar reasoning that the tracking software does not record content, said Phil Yannella, one of the blog entry’s authors, in an email on Monday. Another reason mentioned in the blog entry is that website owners aren’t illegally intercepting information if they own the sites where the information is collected. Also, many sites disclose the use of website analytics in their privacy sections, the authors pointed out.

Yannella said he knows of no court that has allowed a similar suit to proceed. “Perhaps because of this I’ve noticed that other plaintiffs have begun to voluntarily dismiss claims as well, including in some of my cases,” he said.

The claims differ from a landmark case that the Supreme Court recently allowed to proceed against social media giant Facebook, the blog entry noted. In that case, Facebook is accused of collecting users search requests from third-party sites embedded with Facebook’s Like button and then selling that data to other companies.

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