Posted May 16, 2011 9:46 am by with 3 comments

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Facebook is likely to always be in the crosshairs of someone or something that will want to get their piece of the Facebook gazillions the old fashioned way: by suing for it.

A group who was trying to ding Facebook on privacy found that the pot at the end of the rainbow was empty for now as their case in a California court was tossed but still allowed to return if there is actually anything to it.

The Register reports

A federal judge has gutted a lawsuit filed against Facebook for allegedly leaking users’ personal information to advertisers on the grounds that they didn’t suffer specific injuries and the leak didn’t run afoul of wiretap and computer fraud statutes.

The lawsuit, filed in federal Court in San Jose, California, last year, alleges that the social network violated its own privacy policy by including users’ ID numbers in referrer headers that were created each time they clicked on an ads. Two California men alleged that the disclosure, which spanned a three-month period earlier that year, shared their personally identifiable information with advertisers. They sued for violations of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, federal wiretap statutes, breach of contract, and other laws.

Oh well, looks like these Winklevoss wannabes will have to go back to the legal drawing board to hit the Facebook Lotto.

It’s an interesting ruling in that it falls under the “no harm, no foul” banner of how the Internet and privacy may play out in the courts. That’s an interesting take because it’s like only admitting something exists if something bad happens.

I see this in the same vein as the dangerous intersection in town that has been the site of many accidents and it’s a known hazard but the government won’t install a traffic light until a few people are killed as a result of the situation. Makes sense on some level except for the one that includes common sense.

Of course, having your information handed over to advertisers usually won’t result in death so maybe the courts are going to side with Facebook for a while. What’s the worst thing that can happen? Identity theft that ruins someone life and makes it a living hell on earth? Stop complaining! It’s just your privacy!

For now though it looks like Facebook and other online gatherers of data are on a roll since this is not the first ruling that feels that an ounce of prevention comes nowhere near the value of a ultimately applying a pound of cure.

The ruling is only the latest time a lawsuit brought for alleged privacy breaches has been dismissed because the plaintiffs didn’t allege a specific injury. In late 2009, a federal judge threw out claims brought against Express Scripts for a lapse that exposed customers’ names, dates of birth, social security numbers, and prescription drug histories. Last year, the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals absolved clothing retailer The Gap for exposing sensitive information for 800,000 customers when laptops with unencrypted contents were stolen.

Personally, I will error on the side of caution. The more I learn about how sloppy Facebook is with any data the less I am willing to hand it over to Zuck and company.

What about you?

  • With the amount of personal information that is shared on Facebook and the apparent lack of security and privacy options I am amazed that there are not more lawsuits.

    • I suspect there are but no one has taken the time to ferret them all out. Since there is the potential for settlements you can bet that lawyers will be circling ……….

  • Sadly I have to agree with the courts.. no damage, no crime.

    The burden of proof is definitely with the plaintiff.. The big cases will most likely settle out of court.
    You may wish to pay attention in Canada where a class action was set up against Sony for release of private information. It will be interesting to see if sony settles or not?