By: K. Lea Morris
October 18th, 2012 10:00a
Earlier this year a class action lawsuit was filed against Facebook seeking $15 billion in damages for violating the privacy of its members. According to the complaint, filed in federal court in California, the suit combines 21 cases filed across the U.S. and alleges Facebook violated its members’ privacy rights by tracking members even after they logged out of their accounts.
The lawsuit alleges Facebook violated the U.S. Wiretap Act by tracking its members’ movement on the internet through “like” buttons embedded on other web pages. The U.S. Wiretap Act prohibits “interception and disclosure of wire, oral or electronic communications” and establishes fines of $100 per day, up to $10,000, for every day the law is violated.
This isn’t the first time Facebook has been called on to answer questions regarding their privacy policies. In late 2011, the social networking company entered in a privacy agreement with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to settle a case in which the agency accused Facebook of engaging in deceptive privacy policies that caused users to share more information than they intended. Under that agreement, Facebook is subject to fines of $16,000 per violation per day should they violate the terms of the settlement. As part of the settlement, Facebook is required to undergo regular privacy audits for the next twenty years. On the day the settlement was announced, Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg apologized in a blog post for what he called “a bunch of mistakes” on privacy issues.
But still, from the outside looking in, Facebook appears to be unphased by these lawsuits over its privacy policies. In fact, Facebook has been working with a company called Datalogix in an effort to use email addresses to track how often people who see an advertisement for a given product on Facebook later go on to buy said product. In addition to its work with Datalogix, Facebook has begun allowing advertisers to target its users based on their email addresses, phone numbers and other websites they’ve visited. Additionally, Facebook is now able to track users’ app usage on their mobile devices by using Facebook Connect, and can use this information to help better target ads.
So, although you may be a conservative Facebook user, always careful not to over-share on the social networking site, keep in mind that some of what you share might just be out of your hands…for now anyway.
K. Lea Morris is an associate at the firm of Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Rafferty, and Proctor. Lea focuses her practice on Mass Torts and works on a number of projects including Gadolinium, Trasylol, Avandia, Breast Implant, and Reglan.