Supreme Court Tosses Facebook Appeal in “Wiretap Act” Lawsuit

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US Supreme Court building; image by Mark Thomas, via Pixabay.com.

The class action alleges that Facebook violated federal law by tracking consumer activity on other websites and platforms – even when they were logged out of their Facebook accounts.

The United States Supreme Court has refused to hear Facebook Inc.’s arguments against a $ 15 billion class action lawsuit alleging the social media network was tracking consumers’ activities, even if they did have been signed out of the application.

Reuters reports that the judges declined to hear Facebook’s appeal against a lower court ruling.

According to Reuters, that ruling had revived a massive class action lawsuit accusing Facebook of violating the Wiretap Act. According to the class, Facebook “secretly” tracked consumer visits to all websites that contained application-specific features, such as the option to “like” or “share” an article.

While the same lawsuit also accuses Facebook of violating California digital privacy laws, the Supreme Court ruling only dealt with alleged violations of the Wiretap Act.

The Wiretap Act, The Hill adds, prohibits individuals and companies in general from following communications, including electronic communications, unless they are receiving or sending clear correspondence.

However, Facebook allegedly used built-in “Like” buttons along with website cookies to collect consumer data that was then sold to advertisers.

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckberberg in 2018. Image via Wikimedia Commons / User: Anthony Quintano. (CCA-BY-2.0).

Four users have filed a class action lawsuit against the social media giant after its unscrupulous prosecution was publicized.

Facebook, Reuters reports, participated in a “non-consensual persecution” between at least April 2010 and September 2011 and only stopped after a researcher revealed its practices later in 2011.

In its own defense, Facebook tried to convince the Supreme Court that the presence of features built into Facebook on other websites made it a “direct participant” in the digital exchange between individual consumers and third-party websites.

“Facebook was not an uninvited intruder into communication between two different parties,” wrote Facebook lawyers in a short letter. “It was a direct participant.”

Facebook has also repeatedly insisted that, despite its user tracking programs, it still protects consumer data and shouldn’t have a lawsuit over computer-to-computer communications.

Still, Facebook has been fighting the same lawsuit for years. While the class action lawsuit was dismissed in 2017, the U.S. 9th Court of Appeals allowed the complaint to go back to court in 2020.

In the 9th Circuit Court’s ruling, a jury found that Facebook’s tracking mechanisms did not give consumers a “meaningful” chance to control what the company could and could not see.

“Facebook’s user profiles would allegedly reveal a person’s likes, dislikes, interests and habits over a long period of time without giving users a meaningful opportunity to control or prevent unauthorized access to their private lives,” the panel said.

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