Mass lawsuit against ‘data-cusling’ Amazon – NRC

After previous allegations against Apple, Google and Twitter, another Dutch class action suit against a major US tech company is in the works. Stichting Data Bescherming Nederland accused internet giant Amazon of violating European privacy rules by collecting, processing and transferring data to the US without users’ consent. Amazon received the allegation this week. If the company does not stop this practice and compensate the Dutch account holders, it intends to file a lawsuit.

According to the foundation’s own estimate, five million Dutch people have created an Amazon account. The regulator in Luxembourg (where Amazon’s European headquarters are located) fined Amazon 746 million euros in 2021 for violating European privacy rules.

The joint lawsuit alleges that Amazon still collects and processes unauthorized data from European consumers. The foundation behind the mass lawsuit alleges that Amazon is “covertly disseminating data.” Amazon also tracks user behavior outside of its own webshop, known as third-party cookies. Advocates say they are difficult to resist and will be kept even if you refuse them.

Voice recognition

This allegation is based in part on research into tens of thousands of websites visited by the Dutch. Five hundred of these cookies collect personal data without consent. For example, this happens on websites such as beleggen.nl, beaumonde.nl, geenstijl.nl, hockey.nl, me-to-we.nl and moviemeter.nl. In other cases, Amazon cookies are placed without proper consent, such as Tripadvisor, Autotrack, Funda, CNN and Vinted. Amazon also collects data through third-party applications such as Winded and Sudoku.

Amazon started as an online store, but offers a range of media services, consumer electronics, surveillance cameras and cloud services. Additionally, Amazon makes money through online advertisements. It is the world’s largest ad network by revenue, after Google and Meta. Amazon will generate $512 billion in annual revenue by 2022. Nearly 38 billion of that comes from ad sales based on users’ individual profiles. According to the complaint, Amazon does not specify how that data is combined on its privacy grounds.

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At the end of May, Amazon settled USD 30 million (€27.5 million) with the US regulator, the FTC, following two lawsuits against it for alleged privacy violations. A first case involving Ring video doorbells: Camera images can be easily viewed by Amazon employees. Additionally, Ring customer account information is floating around the Internet.

Another involved smart speakers with Amazon’s digital assistant, which collected personal data without consent and unsolicited audio data to improve speech recognition.

Last week, the FTC launched a new lawsuit against Amazon; The company allegedly manipulated and misled Prime subscribers when they tried to cancel the service. In the United Kingdom, a mass claim is pending from consumers seeking compensation for allegedly favoring its own products in its online store.

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The Dutch Data Protection Authority also received a copy of the complaint. A spokesperson for the Dutch regulator sees mass claims as a ‘useful addition’ to existing regulation: ‘It is in the interest of everyone’s privacy that citizens can take collective action through the courts against infringements of their privacy. Public enforcement by AP and its international counterparts and private enforcement through legal claims can reinforce each other.

A lawsuit funder — a party that presents legal fees — is Chicago’s Langford Capital, which has a special fund for these types of claims. Americans are not actually involved in the lawsuit, but could receive up to 20 percent of the proceeds if it comes to a settlement. In similar cases, an allocated damage claim is available between 250 and 2,000 euros per user.

The founder of the Netherlands Data Protection Foundation is Ari van der Steen, an accountant who filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Carclaim foundation against sjoemeldies of the German car brand VW. In 2021, the court said car owners overpaid by up to 3,000 euros and should be compensated. That decision has been challenged by VW.

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