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Lawsuit accuses Oracle of facilitating sales of 'billions' of folks' personal data

Privacy case claiming Big Red contravened a string of US laws follows boasts made by Larry Ellison in 2016


Oracle is the subject of a class-action suit alleging the software giant created a network containing personal information of hundreds of millions of people and sold the data to third parties.

The case [PDF] is being brought by Johnny Ryan, formerly a policy officer at Brave, maker of the privacy-centric browser, and now part of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL), who was behind several challenges to Google, Amazon, and Microsoft's online advertising businesses.

The ICCL claims Oracle has amassed detailed dossiers on 5 billion people which generates $42.4 billion in annual revenue.

The allegations appear to be based, in part, on an Oracle presentation from 2016 in which Oracle CTO and founder Larry Ellison described how data was collected so businesses could predict purchasing patterns among consumers.

Ellison said at the time [1:15 onward]: "It is a combination of real-time looking at all of their social activity, real-time looking at where they are including, micro-locations – and this is scaring the lawyers [who] are shaking their heads and putting their hands over their eyes – knowing how much time you spend in a specific aisle of a specific store and what is in that aisle of a store. As we collect information about consumers and you combine that with their demographic profile, and their past purchasing behavior, we can do a pretty good job of predicting what they're going to buy next."

The ICCL claims Oracle's dossiers about people include names, home addresses, emails, purchases online and in the real world, physical movements in the real world, income, interests and political views, and a detailed account of online activity.

The campaign group went on to allege that one Oracle database included a record of a German man who used a prepaid debit card to place a €10 bet on an esports site. Oracle also coordinates a global trade in dossiers about people through the Oracle Data Marketplace, it claims.

The case has been filed at US District Court for the Northern District of California. Plaintiffs aside from Ryan include Mike Katz-Lacabe, director of research at the Center for Human Rights and Privacy, and Jennifer Golbeck, professor at the University of Maryland's College of Information Studies.

In a statement, Ryan said: "This is a Fortune 500 company on a dangerous mission to track where every person in the world goes, and what they do. We are taking this action to stop Oracle's surveillance machine."

The complaint against Oracle alleges violations of the Federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act, the Constitution of the State of California, the California Invasion of Privacy Act, competition law, and the common law.

The Register has asked Oracle to comment. ®

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