Keefe Law Firm files Facebook Complaint to Protect Users’ Privacy Rights

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Facebook Violates Users’ Privacy via Secret & Unauthorized Cookies Monitoring their Web Browsing Activities

The trial lawyers at Keefe Law Firm have, with the firms of Sianni & Straite (Wilmington, DE and NYC), and Eichen, Crutchlow, Zaslow and McElroy (Edison, NJ) filed a putative class action complaint against Facebook, Inc. (“Facebook”). Kiesel, Boucher and Larson, LLP of Los Angeles is local counsel. Styled Davis, et al. v. Facebook, Inc., Civ. Action No. 11-cv-04834 (PSG) (N.D. Cal.), the case is pending in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California (San Jose Division). The Plaintiffs allege that Facebook knowingly, secretly and illegally tracked users after they had logged off Facebook. A number of similar suits followed in various courts. The Plaintiffs lawyers have asked the court in San Jose to consolidate those similar cases with Davis.

Facebook, the largest social networking website in the world, has over 800 million users globally, 150 million of whom are in the United States. Facebook’s terms and conditions of use disclose that Facebook tracks users’ web travels during Facebook sessions. Logging out of Facebook was supposed to terminate this tracking. In 2010, however, Facebook was caught deliberately and secretly following its users’ web travels even after the users had logged out of their Facebook sessions. This intentional and surreptitious tracking violates users’ privacy rights.

“Cookies” are essentially small files that websites such as Facebook use to store login identification, confirm that a user is logged in and track a user’s interactions with applications and other websites. Facebook used cookies that continued tracking users’ internet usage even after log out from Facebook.

Facebook did not disclose its post-log out monitoring. Facebook never asked for, let alone obtained, users’ consent for this spying. Facebook’s online help center misleadingly reassured users that, “When you log out of Facebook, we remove the cookies that identify your particular account.”

Seeking class action status, the Davis complaint asserts that Facebook’s hidden post-log out tracking violated the following federal laws: (1) Federal Wiretap Act, 18.U.S.C. § 2511, which prohibits the intentional interception of any oral, wire or electronic communications without permission; (2) Stored Electronic Communication Act (“SECA), 18 U.S.C. § 2701, which bars Facebook’s storage and insertion of special cookies on users’ computers to collect stored information; and (3) Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1030, which prohibits Facebook’s unauthorized intrusion into computers used for interstate commerce and communication.

In this era of rapidly advancing technology, we must be ever more careful to protect our precious privacy rights. Facebook intentionally and secretly mined highly personal data of great commercial value. Facebook used that data to make money. Asked since May 2010 to stop its impermissible tracking, Facebook stalled until September 26, 2011, before admitting it had installed cookies on users’ computers to track users’ internet activity even after they logged out of Facebook.

On September 28, 2011, Congressmen Edward Markey and Joe Barton sent a letter to the Chairman Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”), Jon Leibowitz voicing serious concerns with Facebook’s conduct of “tracking user behavior without their consent or knowledge.” Congressmen Markey and Barton, co-Chairs of the Congressional Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus, wrote that this tracking warranted an FTC investigation of Facebook under the Federal Trade Commission Act’s policy of protecting Americans from “unfair deceptive acts or practices.”

Please contact Keefe Law Firm if you should have any questions, knowledge or information relating to this lawsuit and our fight to safeguard privacy rights.