Another chapter recently opened in the Facebook lawsuit chronicle. The plot of this latest litigious episode pits the popular social media site against a large class of angry litigants.
A comprehensive research study is the apparent catalyst of controversy. Authored by Tilburg University researcher Arnold Roosendaal, the report revealed that Facebook uses its famous “Like” button to track unsuspecting web surfers’ online activity. CLICK HERE to download report.
The piece also posited that Facebook discerns member identities via cookies that are covertly installed while users visit sites that display the “Like” icon. IP addresses thereby obtained are purportedly used to track Facebook members’ online activity.
Further research disclosed that similar cookies are also installed on non-members’ computers by sites that feature the “Facebook Connect” login platform. Intercepted data is then used to track subsequent visits to participating sites.
Personal privacy is the crux of the most recent Facebook litigation. The plaintiffs (California residents Ryan Ung, Chi Cheng and Alice Rosen ) assert that Facebook violated the reasonable expectation of privacy in one’s personal web-browsing history.
Another Facebook lawsuit was recently dismissed with leave to refile. The suit alleged that Facebook surreptitiously transmitted users’ personal data to online marketers via embedded header codes. Virtual advertisers obtained Facebook users’ names, ages, gender, and other personal data without prior user consent. This practice was in clear violation of Facebook’s stated privacy rules.
Yet another case in the long line of social media lawsuits against Facebook is on appeal to the Ninth Circuit. The Plaintiff-appellants are protesting a Facebook lawsuit settlement stemming from Facebook’s unauthorized dissemination of members’ e-commerce transactions.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Twitter and Google also admit to tracking web users’ surfing activities without the prior activation of a widget or icon. Google and Facebook both claimed to “anonymize” such compiled data, however.
Such assertions are akin to a former President’s admission of having smoked marijuana without inhaling. Why would social network sites expend considerable resources to furtively capture personal identifying data – to accomplishing nothing except its nullification by “anonymization?”
The online community must actively oppose practices that compromise personal security through pervasive invasions of individual privacy. Given the overall litigious climate in contemporary American society, social media lawsuits may be the most effective ammunition in the battle against Big Brother.
Indisputably, the internet’s vast commercial and informational capabilities serve many beneficial functions. Effective checks and balances are essential, however. Moderation is the best means of maintaining the best balance between personal and pecuniary freedoms.
Sylvester, Oppenheim & Linde represents businesses and their owners in most types of litigation. If your business has a legal problem, contact Richard Oppenheim directly for a prompt, no charge initial consultation. You may use the contact form in the left column or call 818-461-8500.