Chance v. Avenue A, Inc.

The Cyber Blog IndiaCase Summary

Violation of privacy when a website allows a third party to access its cookies

Chance v. Avenue A, Inc.
165 F.Supp.2d 1153
In the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington
Case Number C00-1964C
Before Chief Judge Coughenour
Decided on September 14, 2001

Relevancy of the Case: Violation of privacy when a website allows a third party to access its cookies

Statutes and Provisions Involved

  • The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1030
  • The Stored Communications Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2701
  • The Wiretap Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2511

Relevant Facts of the Case

  • The plaintiff class claims that the defendant placed a cookie on their computers. This cookie allowed the defendant to monitor the plaintiffs’ electronic communication without their knowledge or consent.
  • The plaintiff class has filed claims under the three federal statutes given above, along with several state laws.

Prominent Arguments by the Counsels

  • The plaintiffs’ counsels relied on the judgment of In re America Online to support their theory of aggregation. They further argued that “loss”, as opposed to “damages”, is not subject to the $5,000 threshold.

Opinion of the Bench

  • The plaintiff has alleged that the damage exceeds the threshold limit of $5,000. However, for their claim to be a valid cause of action, they cannot show aggregated damage for separate acts.
  • Modern computers and internet service providers are “facilities” as defined in the Stored Communications Act.
  • The websites authorise the defendant’s access to communication between personal computers and websites.
  • The plaintiffs have provided no specific evidence in the defendant’s possession that would reveal a tortious or illegal purpose of the interception.

Final Decision

  • The court defined the plaintiff’s federal claims and granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment.

Satvik Mishra, an undergraduate student at the Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Punjab, prepared this case summary during their internship with The Cyber Blog India in May/June 2022.