Oracle faces civil lawsuit over alleged privacy violations

Global data broker Oracle America has been served with a class-action lawsuit in the US and stands accused of tracking the doings of hundreds of millions of people without their express consent.

The complaint, filed with the District Court of Northern California on August 19, declares: “In the course of functioning as a worldwide data broker, Oracle has created a network that tracks in real-time and records indefinitely the personal information of hundreds of millions of people.”

The class-action lawsuit – defined under California state law as litigation claiming civil damages in excess of $5 million, excluding expenses – was brought by privacy rights activist Michael Katz-Lacabe, social media expert Dr Jennifer Golbeck of the University of Maryland, and Dr Johnny Ryan, senior fellow at the Irish Council for Civil Liberties.

It accuses Oracle of selling “detailed personal information to third parties” both directly and via its ID Graph function, “a service product designed to provide ‘identity resolution,’ the process of ‘matching individual customer identities and combining them into a single consistent and accurate customer profile.’”

All three plaintiffs claim they were victims of Oracle’s intrusive data harvesting practices, despite taking precautions to avoid being monitored, and will seek a jury trial to resolve the dispute.

High-tech data mining

The complaint further states that Oracle uses the ID Graph to synchronize or match “vast amounts of personal data” it has collected, adding: “This synchronizing allows Oracle to identify individuals and aggregate their many identifiers, which in turn facilitates further synchronizing of personal data with a high degree of confidence.”

All three plaintiffs accuse Oracle of tracking, analyzing, or storing data on them after they used the internet in the course of their daily professional activities, even though all three took “precautions to keep [...] personal information from being collected by third parties.”

The complaint further alleges that “Oracle continues to track Dr Golbeck’s internet and offline activity, enrich the profile of her as described below, and make her personal information available to third parties without her consent.” Similar accusations have been lodged on behalf of both other plaintiffs.

A cloud, software and data storage provider, Oracle is incorporated in Delaware but registered with the state of California as a data broker.

“California law governs the substantive legal issues in this case,” said the complaint. “The state of California has a significant interest in regulating the conduct of businesses operating within its borders. California [...] has a greater interest in the claims of plaintiffs and class members than any other state or country, and is most intimately concerned with the claims and outcome of this litigation.”

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