IT Trenches

Oct 23 2009   6:40PM GMT

Stuck on a blacklist? Sue the big guys! Cisco, Microsoft, Comcast, TRUSTe

Troy Tate Profile: Troy Tate

A web based tool I frequently use is called Network-Tools.com. I frequently use the site to lookup names associated with IP addresses and whois information and ping to the addresses. A recent notice on the page raised my concern. The notice says:

Network-Tools owner sues Microsoft, Cisco, Comcast and TRUSTe over IP Address Blacklisting
Suit alleges eavdropping, privacy policy fraud, breach of contract and defamation

Interesting stuff, huh? So why would this suit be raised? According to the page tracking the lawsuit:

The lawsuit claims that Comcast, Microsoft, and Cisco collected information about Smith’s IP addresses and either put them on a “blacklist” or gave them a poor “Reputation Score.” Comcast even blocked his communication link with a mail server he operates outside the Comcast network. The suit claims that in order to collect this information in the first place Comcast, Cisco and Microsoft violated eavesdropping laws. The suit goes on to claim that Comcast, Microsoft, and Cisco failed to adhere to their privacy policies.

When Smith tried to use the privacy policies of Comcast, Microsoft, and Cisco to correct the spammer accusations the companies balked. Comcast even told him it didn’t matter what the privacy policy said, he wasn’t getting the information. He filed complaints with the TRUSTe organization that verifies the privacy policies of Microsoft and Comcast but that did no good.

Previous lawsuits against these “blacklists” have been brought by commercial e-mailers against organizations such as Spamhaus. In this case the accused is not a commercial e-mail, not a spammer, and has no mailing lists of any sort. The accused has even made presentations at the Federal Trade Commission against spammers and testified at the first “Spam Summit” more than 10 years ago.

This case seems to cover a lot of things: privacy; net neutrality; service blockage.  For anyone who has gotten on a blocklist or had to get an organization removed from a blocklist, you can understand some of the frustration. Mr. Smith has gone beyond frustration and is taking some specific actions. This could be a very interesting case to follow based on the defendant organizations. Hopefully information will continue to be provided as the case moves forward. A lot of the case documentation presented to the court can be found on the website. It makes for some interesting reading.

Consider also some of the relief being sought under the lawsuit (not all items requested are listed below):

  • Prohibit Microsoft, Comcast and Cisco from eavesdropping on Internet communications of the citizens of New Jersey,
  • Prohibit Comcast displaying or distributing false or misleading portions of the Privacy Policy, Customer Privacy Notice, Acceptable Use Policy for High-Speed Internet Services, Network Management Policy, Network Management FAQ, Spam Policy and other related information to the citizens of New Jersey,
  • Prohibit Microsoft from displaying or distributing false or misleading portions of the Privacy Statement and other related information to the citizens of New Jersey,
  • Prohibit Cisco from displaying or distributing false or misleading portions of the Privacy Statement and other related information to the citizens of New Jersey,
  • Prohibit TRUSTe from conducting a false or misleading dispute resolutions services to the citizens of New Jersey,
  • Prohibit TRUSTe from endorsing any privacy policies displayed to citizens of New Jersey,
  • Prohibit TRUSTe from claiming they certify entire companies when they only certify specific web sites,
  • Require Microsoft, Comcast and Cisco to provide Plaintiff with all information collected about Plaintiff’s Internet communications or any associated data or any PII and allow Plaintiff to correct any erroneous information, and
  • Prohibit Microsoft, Comcast and Cisco from distributing any defamatory information about Plaintiff to any third party,
  • Compensatory damages to compensate Plaintiff for being unable to communication via e-mail without disruptions,
  • Compensatory damages to compensate Plaintiff for being unable to communication via e-mail without eavesdropping,
  • Compensatory damages to compensate Plaintiff for being unable to correct “profiles” maintained by Defendants about Plaintiff,
  • Compensatory damages to compensate Plaintiff for time lost in running his business,
  • Statutory damages pursuant to the  Electronic Communications Privacy Act,

What do you think of the merits of the case? What have you experienced with regards to these organizations and their services? Please leave comments below.

Thanks for reading and let’s continue to be good network citizens! Sometimes it may require getting nasty though it seems and filing a lawsuit ;)

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