Costco Is Being Sued For Spying On Customers. Here's Why

If you're a Costco customer, you may have noticed. In some locations, you can buy items from Costco online and pick them up curbside (via Grocery Dive). That's no mistake. Costco's January 2021 virtual sales are up 106.7 percent compared to last year (via Progressive Grocer). Costco, it seems, is finally getting the hang of online commerce. And maybe it's dedicated itself a little too enthusiastically to taking advantage of it. As an increasing number of Costco's customers looked to online shopping, the company began, as per what executives told Digital Commerce 360, looking for "low-hanging fruit." First, its customers' emails. As of August 2020, Costco had more than 60 percent of its members' email addresses, up from around 30 percent a few years prior.

But Costco may have also turned its attention to something more ethically questionable: monitoring customer use of its online platform. According to a recent lawsuit filed in Palm Beach County Circuit Court, Costco has been busy recording, in detail, customers' interaction with its website. The grocery chain has allegedly been doing so without their consent (via Boca News Now).

Details about the surveillance lawsuit against Costco

As claimed in a class-action lawsuit described by Boca News Now, plaintiff Jason Goldstein used Costco's website roughly five times in 2020. Costco is accused of watching him use its website without his go-ahead during each of those times. "Costco utilized tracking, recording and/or 'session replay' software to contemporaneously intercept Plaintiff's use and interaction with the website," the lawsuit details, "including mouse clips and movements, information inputted by Plaintiff, and/or pages and content viewed by Plaintiff. Defendant also recorded Plaintiff's location during the visits, as well as time and dates of each visit."

Furthermore, the suit says that Costco's use of such recording software without its customers' consent places it in direct violation of the Florida Security Communications Act. For himself and others belonging to the class, Goldstein is demanding an injunction prohibiting Costco from continuing to monitor its customers' interactions with its webpage without express consent and compensation for both "actual liquidated damages, and/or punitive statutory damages." Eat This, Not That! reached has out to Costco for comment, but at the time of this writing, the company has yet to respond.