Intuit slapped with privacy violation suit

Personal finance software vendor Intuit was sued last Wednesday by a user of the company's Quicken.com Web site. The user, Joseph Rubin, contends his personal information was released to advertisers.

The lawsuit was filed against Intuit in federal court in New York. It asks for unspecified damages from the software vendor and a ruling from the court ordering the purging of all personal information gathered or shared as a result of Intuit's alleged wrongdoing, according to published reports.

Quicken.com provides consumers with a number of financial services, including the ability to track and pay bills, and prepare and pay income taxes.

Intuit spokeswoman Mary Giani said the company believes Rubin's lawsuit is without merit.

"(What happened) was an unintentional consequence of using industry-standard technology, HTML," she said.

Rubin couldn't be reached for comment.

According to Giani, a design flaw in some e-commerce Internet sites allows users' personal data to be attached to Web page location codes used by third-party Internet advertising firms like DoubleClick.

In Intuit's case, two features on its Web site - the mortgage calculator and credit assessment - collected personal information from consumers including their income and assets and debts and then sent that information to DoubleClick.

When Intuit was alerted to what was happening earlier this month, Giani said the company immediately moved to stop the practice.

"Intuit pulled all DoubleClick ads from Quicken.com immediately that were believed to be in an infected area," she said. "(Intuit) is scrubbing the site to investigate and determine the scope of the problem. Intuit is a company with a long-standing history and a company that takes privacy issues very seriously."

DoubleClick's new privacy officer, Jules Polonetsky, declined to comment on the matter.

Last April, Rubin and two other plaintiffs filed a class action suit against Intuit in the Superior Court of Santa Clara County, Calif., charging the company with a number of consumer violations, including unlawful and fraudulent business practices, false and misleading advertising and violations of the California civil code in connection with the marketing and sales of Quicken.

The complaints were all dismissed.

Giani said Intuit believes Rubin's current complaint will also be dismissed.

Computerworld reporter Christine McGeever contributed to this report.

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