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Zillow named in digital privacy lawsuit

Lawsuit alleges that Zillow used 'session replay' software manufactured by Microsoft to clandestinely track user activity on its website

Although things remain quiet on the anti-trust suit front, Zillow’s legal team isn’t getting a break. On Monday, the home listing site was named as a defendant in a class action lawsuit filed in a U.S. District Court in Seattle.

Plaintiffs Natalie Perkins and Kenneth Hasson alleged that Zillow used “session replay” software manufactured by Microsoft to clandestinely track user activity on its website, essentially wiretapping the electronic communications of visitors to Zillow’s website, which they claim violates the Washington Wiretapping Statute and constitutes an invasion of the privacy rights of website visitors.

Microsoft was also named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

“Zillow procures third-party vendors, such as Microsoft Corporation, to embed snippets of JavaScript computer code (“Session Replay Code”) on Zillow’s website, which then deploys on each website visitor’s internet browser for the purpose intercepting and recording the website visitor’s electronic communications with the Zillow website, including their mouse movements, clicks, keystrokes (such as text being entered into an information field or text box), URLs of web pages visited, and/or other electronic communications in real-time (“Website Communications”),” the suit stated. “These third-party vendors (collectively, “Session Replay Providers”) create and deploy the Session Replay Code at Zillow’s request.”

According to the lawsuit, Zillow can then use the website communications to recreate website visitors’ entire visit to the Zillow website, enabling Zillow to virtually “look over the shoulder” of each site visitor “unbeknownst to the millions of individuals perusing Zillow’s real estate listings.”

The lawsuit defines the class represented in the suit as: “All natural persons in the United States and its territories whose Website Communications were captured through the use of Session Replay Code embedded in Zillow’s website.”

The class has yet to be certified.

This is not the only digital privacy lawsuit the listings giant is currently facing. The firm is dealing with a similar lawsuit in Pennsylvania that claims that the “session replay” technology used by the firm violates the Pennsylvania Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Control Act.

“Zillow takes the privacy and security of users’ information very seriously,” a Zillow spokesperson wrote in an email. “We are transparent with our users through our privacy policy, which explains to users the types of information we collect as they use our apps and websites. We are aware of the lawsuit that was recently filed and are currently reviewing it.”

Attorneys for the plaintiffs did not immediately returned a request for comment.