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Sears Holdings Management Corporation; Analysis of Agreement Containing Consent Order to Aid Public Comment

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Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

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AGENCY:

Federal Trade Commission.

ACTION:

Proposed Consent Agreement.

SUMMARY:

The consent agreement in this matter settles alleged violations of federal law prohibiting unfair or deceptive acts or practices or unfair methods of competition. The attached Analysis to Aid Public Comment describes both the allegations in the complaint and the terms of the consent order—embodied in the consent agreement—that would settle these allegations.

DATES:

Comments must be received on or before July 6, 2009.

ADDRESSES:

Interested parties are invited to submit written comments electronically or in paper form. Comments should refer to“Sears, File No. 082-3099” to facilitate the organization of comments. Please note that your comment—including your name and your state—will be placed on the public record of this proceeding, including on the publicly accessible FTC website, at (http://www.ftc.gov/​os/​publiccomments.shtm).

Because comments will be made public, they should not include any sensitive personal information, such as an individual’s Social Security Number; date of birth; driver’s license number or other state identification number, or foreign country equivalent; passport number; financial account number; or credit or debit card number. Comments also should not include any sensitive health information, such as medical records or other individually identifiable health information. In addition, comments should not include any “[t]rade secret or any commercial or financial information which is obtained from any person and which is privileged or confidential.* * * as provided in Section 6(f) of the FTC Act, 15 U.S.C. 46(f), and Commission Rule 4.10(a)(2), 16 CFR 4.10(a)(2). Comments containing material for which confidential treatment is requested must be filed in paper form, must be clearly labeled “Confidential,” and must comply with FTC Rule 4.9(c), 16 CFR 4.9(c).1

Because paper mail addressed to the FTC is subject to delay due to heightened security screening, please consider submitting your comments in electronic form. Comments filed in electronic form should be submitted by using the following weblink: (https://secure.commentworks.com/​ftc-searsholdings) (and following the instructions on the web-based form). To ensure that the Commission considers an electronic comment, you must file it on the web-based form at the weblink: Start Printed Page 28245(https://secure.commentworks.com/​ftc-searsholdings). If this Notice appears at (http://www.regulations.gov/​search/​index.jsp), you may also file an electronic comment through that website. The Commission will consider all comments that regulations.gov forwards to it. You may also visit the FTC website at http://www.ftc.gov/​ to read the Notice and the news release describing it.

A comment filed in paper form should include the “Sears, File No. 082 3099 “ reference both in the text and on the envelope, and should be mailed or delivered to the following address: Federal Trade Commission, Office of the Secretary, Room H-135 (Annex D), 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20580. The FTC is requesting that any comment filed in paper form be sent by courier or overnight service, if possible, because U.S. postal mail in the Washington area and at the Commission is subject to delay due to heightened security precautions.

The Federal Trade Commission Act (“FTC Act”) and other laws the Commission administers permit the collection of public comments to consider and use in this proceeding as appropriate. The Commission will consider all timely and responsive public comments that it receives, whether filed in paper or electronic form. Comments received will be available to the public on the FTC website, to the extent practicable, at (http://www.ftc.gov/​os/​publiccomments.shtm). As a matter of discretion, the Commission makes every effort to remove home contact information for individuals from the public comments it receives before placing those comments on the FTC website. More information, including routine uses permitted by the Privacy Act, may be found in the FTC’s privacy policy, at (http://www.ftc.gov/​ftc/​privacy.shtm).

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Rick Quaresima, Bureau of Consumer Protection, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20580, (202) 326-3130.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Pursuant to section 6(f) of the Federal Trade Commission Act, 38 Stat. 721, 15 U.S.C. 46(f), and § 2.34 the Commission Rules of Practice, 16 CFR 2.34, notice is hereby given that the above-captioned consent agreement containing a consent order to cease and desist, having been filed with and accepted, subject to final approval, by the Commission, has been placed on the public record for a period of thirty (30) days. The following Analysis to Aid Public Comment describes the terms of the consent agreement, and the allegations in the complaint. An electronic copy of the full text of the consent agreement package can be obtained from the FTC Home Page (for June 4, 2009), on the World Wide Web, at (http://www.ftc.gov/​os/​actions.shtm). A paper copy can be obtained from the FTC Public Reference Room, Room 130-H, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20580, either in person or by calling (202) 326-2222.

Public comments are invited, and may be filed with the Commission in either paper or electronic form. All comments should be filed as prescribed in the ADDRESSES section above, and must be received on or before the date specified in the DATES section.

Analysis of Agreement Containing Consent Order to Aid Public Comment

The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC” or “Commission”) has accepted, subject to final approval, an agreement containing a consent order from Sears Holdings Management Corporation (“Respondent”).

The proposed consent order (“proposed order”) has been placed on the public record for thirty (30) days for receipt of comments by interested persons. Comments received during this period will become part of the public record. After thirty (30) days, the Commission will again review the agreement and the comments received, and will decide whether it should withdraw from the agreement and take appropriate action or make final the agreement’s proposed order.

This matter involves the advertising and dissemination from April 2007 through January 2008 of a software application (the “Application”) that tracked nearly all of the Internet activities that took place on the computers of consumers who installed it as part of Respondent’s “My SHC Community” market research program. According to the FTC complaint, Respondent represented, in the process of soliciting consumers to download and install the Application, that the Application would track consumers’ “online browsing.” The complaint alleges that this claim is deceptive because Respondent failed to disclose adequately that the Application, when installed, would do much more. Only in a lengthy user license agreement did Respondent disclose that the Application would: monitor nearly all of the Internet behavior that occurs on consumers’ computers, including information exchanged between consumers and websites other than those owned, operated, or affiliated with Respondent, information provided in secure sessions when interacting with third-party websites, shopping carts, and online accounts, and headers of web-based email; track certain non-Internet-related activities taking place on those computers; and transmit nearly all of the monitored information (excluding selected categories of filtered information) to Respondent’s remote computer servers.

The proposed order contains provisions designed to prevent Respondent from engaging in similar acts and practices in the future. The proposed consent order defines a “Tracking Application” as “any software program or application . . . that is capable of being installed on consumers’ computers and used by or on behalf of respondent to monitor, record, or transmit information about activities occurring on computers on which it is installed, or about data that is stored on, created on, transmitted from, or transmitted to the computers on which it is installed.” Part I requires that Respondent, in advertising or disseminating any Tracking Application, disclose certain information clearly and prominently, prior to the downloading or installing of the application, and on a separate screen from any final “end user license agreement” or similar document. That information would include all the types of data that the Tracking Application will monitor, record, or transmit; how the data may be used; and whether the data may be used by a third party. In describing the types of data, Respondent would be required specifically to disclose: whether the data may include information from the consumer’s interactions with a specific set of websites or from a broader range of Internet interaction; whether the data may include transactions or information exchanged between the consumer and third parties in secure sessions, interactions with shopping baskets, application forms, or online accounts; and whether the information may include personal financial or health information. Respondent must also obtain express consent from consumers prior to downloading or installing a Tracking Application.

Part II of the proposed order requires Respondent to post a clear and prominent notice on the myshccommunity.com website advising consumers that the types of information the Application actually collected and transmitted to Sears and advising them how to uninstall the Application. It also requires Sears to provide prompt, toll-free, telephonic and email support to Start Printed Page 28246help affected consumers uninstall the Application.

Part III of the proposed order requires that Respondent, to the extent it has not already done so, cease collecting any data transmitted by any previously installed Tracking Application and to destroy any previously collected data.

Parts IV through VII of the proposed order require Respondent: to keep copies of relevant consumer complaints and inquiries, documents demonstrating order compliance, and advertisements and other documents relating to dissemination of any Tracking Application; to provide copies of the order to certain of their personnel; to notify the Commission of changes in corporate structure that might affect compliance obligations under the order; and to file compliance reports with the Commission. Part VIII provides that the order will terminate after twenty (20) years, with certain exceptions.

The purpose of this analysis is to facilitate public comment on the proposed order, and it is not intended to constitute an official interpretation of the agreement and proposed order or to modify in any way their terms.

By direction of the Commission.

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Donald S. Clark,

Secretary.

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Footnotes

1. The comment must be accompanied by an explicit request for confidential treatment, including the factual and legal basis for the request, and must identify the specific portions of the comment to be withheld from the public record. The request will be granted or denied by the Commission’s General Counsel, consistent with applicable law and the public interest. See FTC Rule 4.9(c), 16 CFR 4.9(c).

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[FR Doc. E9-13955 Filed 6-12-09: 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE: 6750-01-S