YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: The state Division of Consumer Affairs today kicked off National Consumer Protection Week by launching a “Cyber Safe NJ” website with important information that New Jerseyans can use to protect themselves against identity theft, unlawful invasions of privacy, and other computer- and Internet-related violations of their rights.
www.NJConsumerAffairs.gov/cybersafe includes important tips on safeguarding your digitally-stored personal information. Sections include The Basics of Cyber Safety, Preventing Identity Theft, and Controlling Your Privacy.
“Personal information is the most valuable currency in the online world,” acting state Attorney General John J. Hoffman said.
“Identity thieves launch sophisticated attacks to obtain Social Security and credit card information. Some businesses have violated privacy laws while seeking to profile and advertise to consumers,” Hoffman said.
“The Division of Consumer Affairs continues to fight for the protection of consumer privacy, and to investigate the ever more innovative and subtle methods that have been used to record or transmit personal information without consumers’ knowledge or consent,” DCA Director Eric T. Kanefsky added. “This week is about empowering consumers to take an active role in protecting their information in the online world. As our new website demonstrates, when used responsibly and carefully, the Internet can remain an invaluable and indispensable part of our everyday lives.”
Among the more recent high-profile cases brought by the DCA and state Division of Law, according to a joint release:
• Children’s Mobile Apps : The Division filed actions against two separate mobile app developers, over apps that were marketed to children. In both cases, the apps allegedly collected personal information about child users, without obtaining verifiable parental consent. The first action, filed and resolved in June 2012, is believed to have made New Jersey the first state in the nation to file and resolve a lawsuit under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) against a mobile app developer. The second action was resolved in November 2013.
• Advertising Cookies : The Division in July 2013 obtained a $1 million settlement with an online advertising company that used hidden cookies allegedly to bypass the privacy settings of consumers’ web browsers, without the consumers’ knowledge or consent. This made New Jersey is believed to be the first state in the nation to take independent action with regard to an online advertiser accused of engaging in this practice.
• Bitcoin-Mining Malware : The Division in November 2013 is believed to have made New Jersey the first state in the nation to enter into a settlement with a software company accused of using malicious software to infect thousands of customer computers, without their authorization, to mine for bitcoins. The company was also accused of accessing and monitoring its users’ computers without their authorization or in excess of the authorization granted by users.
• History Sniffing : The Division in 2013 entered into a settlement with a data analytics firm, resolving allegations that it engaged in unlawful “history sniffing” to track websites visited by consumers without their knowledge or consent.
• Google Settlement : New Jersey also served as a member of the Executive Committee that led a multi-state investigation into allegations that Google unlawfully circumvented the default privacy settings in Safari Web browsers. In November 2013, New Jersey joined with 36 states and the District of Columbia in the resulting $17 million settlement with Google.
National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW) is a coordinated campaign that encourages consumers nationwide to take full advantage of their consumer rights and make better-informed decisions.
Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file a complaint with the DCA on the website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or (973)-504-6200 .
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