Facebook and Others Accused of Violating the Privacy of Users

Suit has been filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California against Facebook and other defendants, including Blockbuster, Hotwire, Overstock.com, Zappos and Gamefly. The litigation, Lane et al, vs. Facebook et al, alleges the group of defendants violated a variety of laws, including the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the Video Privacy Protection Act, California’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act, and the California Computer Crime Law.

 

Facebook, a social networking site, was launched in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg, while at Harvard University. Zuckerberg has been the target of several earlier suits from former classmates who say he stole their intellectual property, including computer source code. He has also been the subject of a suit by ConnectU, which hired him during his sophomore year at Harvard, to complete programming for their site. The ConnectU suit, which was dismissed without prejudice on technical grounds, claimed Zuckerberg intentionally sabotaged development there, while using the stolen code to help develop Facebook.

 

Facebook launched the Beacon system in 2007, which allowed third-party websites to include a Facebook script by on their sites, to send information about the actions of Facebook users on those sites, such as purchases made, commenting, and games played, back to Facebook. This opt-out scripting prompted serious privacy concerns and eventually led to a change in policy by Facebook

 

The Lane litigation focuses on the joint marketing venture between Facebook and the other defendants, which the plaintiffs allege violated users’ privacy by sharing personal information about other Web sites. Information about those activities was then published on the user’s home and profile pages on Facebook and broadcast to designated “friends” on Facebook.com.

 

The plaintiffs are asking the court to certify the class and award injunctive relief and monetary damages. A copy of the Complaint is available online.

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