This story was never a matter of if someone would take Facebook to court over the use of their data but it was just a matter of when. Well, I can’t say definitively that we have a winner but a case in California (go figure, right?) comes on the heels of the all the privacy hubbub surrounding Facebook as of late. Since timing is everything this case will get attention.
A California Facebook user has sued the social networking company for allegedly sharing his personal information with advertisers.
“Facebook advertisers are able to gain the ultimate demographic information,” the lawsuit alleges.
If I were the Facebook crew I would call a truce or timeout or something with a company like Google (Are they fighting now? I get confused at all the schoolyard name calling in Silicon Valley as to who broke up with whom today) and pick their brain about how they handle this kind of thing. For Google these suits are a common occurrence and they could probably be pretty helpful to Facebook, a relative newcomer to the courts.
Whether this case has any merits is up for the courts and the judges. To speculate whether Facebook is breaking the law (or has in the past with their privacy practices) serves no real purpose. It is important, however, to pay attention to just how the courts handle cases like these. If it has a short life and is dismissed out of hand then that is an indicator to Facebook that they have more rope with which to hang themselves regarding privacy. If it is awarded class action status then there may be some cause for concern that the “jig is up” and the lawsuits will start to come hot and heavy.
The crux of the argument is
Facebook acts like consent is implied though when everything is made public and no changes are made to the privacy settings by the user. Facebook’s response was standard fare.
Facebook spokesperson Andrew Noyes said in a statement that the company believes the lawsuit is without merit and intends to fight it vigorously.
Facebook has been caught playing tricks with the information that is sent in the header of a referring URL and has denied that they provide actual user data in that header. That denial, which was pointed at a study conducted last summer that revealed this practice, must have had some merit since Facebook changed it tune recently.
Late last month, Facebook said it revised its code and no longer sends marketers information that could be used to identify which member clicked on an ad.
It’s actions like that one which is the “push until the hand is slapped” and a classic hardcore salesman’s “ask for forgiveness rather than permission” attitude that gets Facebook in trouble. To out and out deny that something is happening then actually make a change after nearly a year that supposedly eliminates the practice you denied you were even doing, is just slimy.
Whether facing court cases or not if Facebook continues to run around claiming innocence while still doing what it denies it is doing, then they need to buy some really bad plaid polyester jackets for their sales team. If you are going to act like a used car salesman you might as well dress like one, right?