Federal Appeals Court has approved proposed class action by Facebook users over alleged tracking of their internet activity, even after logging out
Concern about Facebook’s tracking the web surfing habits of customers, even when they have logged out of the social network, has been raised once again.
Reuters has reported that the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco has said Facebook users could pursue several claims under federal and California privacy and wiretapping laws.
The US court decision comes after Facebook users had reportedly accused the company of quietly storing cookies on their browsers that tracked when they visited outside websites containing “like” buttons, and then selling personal profiles based on their browsing histories to advertisers.
It should be remembered that in August 2019 Facebook had announced that it would give its users a new tool to give them the ability to clear their browsing history that is compiled by third party apps and websites, and which is then sent to Facebook.
However that tool would not get the users the ability to delete this “off-Facebook activity”, but would instead disconnect data from an individual user’s account.
Into this mix comes the news that the US court has given its blessing for proposed tracking lawsuits against the social network to proceed.
Facebook for its part has denied the user allegations.
A spokeswoman for Facebook told Reuters that the proposed class action was without merit, and that it will continue defending itself.
Facebook has had some success previously in defending itself against this type of lawsuit.
In 2017 US District Judge Edward Davila in San Jose, California had dismissed the lawsuit, including claims under the federal Wiretap Act, and said the users lacked legal standing to pursue economic damages claims.
But in Thursday’s decision, Chief Judge Sidney Thomas wrote for a three-judge panel that users had a reasonable expectation of privacy, and had sufficiently alleged a “clear invasion” of their right to privacy.
According to Reuters, the panel also said California law recognised a right to recoup unjustly earned profits, regardless of whether a defendant’s conduct directly caused economic harm.
“Facebook’s user profiles would allegedly reveal an individual’s likes, dislikes, interests, and habits over a significant amount of time, without affording users meaningful opportunity to control or prevent the unauthorized exploration of their private lives,” Judge Thomas reportedly wrote.
Judge Thomas also cited Facebook’s data use policy, and said the plaintiffs “plausibly alleged that Facebook set an expectation that logged-out user data would not be collected, but then collected it anyway.”
In September 2018 Mozilla promised to stiffen the privacy controls of its Firefox web browser, and would in future block advertising trackers (ad trackers) by default.
In 2015 the Belgian Privacy Commissioner ordered Facebook to stop collecting information on people who have not signed up for the social network in Belgium,or face a massive penalty.