The U.S. Supreme Court refused Facebook Inc’s bid to reduce a $15billion class action
The lawsuit against Facebook accuses the company of violating a federal law known as the
Wiretap Act by secretly tracking the users’ visit to the websites which uses Facebook features
such as the ‘like’ button.
The litigation accuses the company of violating privacy rights by illegally tracking the
internet activities of users even when they’ve logged out of the social media platform.
Four individuals filed the nationwide class action lawsuit in a federal court of California
seeking $15 billion in damages for Menlo Park.
The court papers also added that the non-consensual tracking was stopped by the Company
after a researcher exposed the same.
The case essentially fixates upon Facebook’s usage of specific features such as ‘plug-ins’
which is incorporated by the third parties into their websites for tracking the browsing
histories of users.
The Wiretap Act forbids eavesdropping on electronic communications except those who are
parties to the communication – the designated sender and receiver.
However, Facebook contends that it is not in violation of the Wiretap Act as when a
user visits a website by means of plug-ins, the person’s browser sends the information to
the company making it a party to the communications.
The plaintiffs also accused Facebook of packaging and selling the tracked data through digital
files called ‘cookies’ to advertisers for profits.
Facebook contended that it uses the received data for tailoring the content it shows its users
and for improving the ads.
The case was dismissed earlier by a federal judge but was revived by the San Francisco-
based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allowing the claims of violating Wiretap Act and
state privacy laws to proceed.
The 9th Circuit while reviving the petition stated,
“Facebook’s user profiles would allegedly reveal an individual’s likes, dislikes, interests and
habits over a significant amount of time, without affording users a meaningful opportunity to
control or prevent the unauthorized exploration of their private lives”.
In response, Facebook contends that the San Francisco ruling jeopardizes the concept of
commonplace data-sharing techniques which is practised to display online advertisement.