Facebook Hit With 5 Lawsuits For Tracking Logged-Out Users

Big Brother Zuckerberg

Facebook was hit this week with three new potential class-action lawsuits stemming from reports that it tracks logged-out users, bringing to five the total number of cases against the company.

The lawsuits allege that Facebook violated wiretap laws by receiving data about users as they surf the Web -- even when they were logged out of the social networking service. The cases stem from a report published late last month by Australian developer Nic Cubrilovic, who found that Facebook was able to identify whenever they visited sites with the "like" button or other social widgets.

Cubrilovic's report spurred lawmakers and privacy groups to call for a Federal Trade Commission investigation. After the developer published his findings, Facebook quickly said it would fix the "bug" that allowed it to receive data about logged-out users. The company also denied "tracking" users, arguing that it never retained data tying users' IDs to the sites they visited.

The cases filed this week were brought in three different federal courthouses. Dana Howard sued in Illinois, John Graham filed a complaint in Kansas, and Michael Singley brought suit in Texas. Those cases join two filed last week: a suit in federal court in Missouri by Chandra Thompson and one in California by Perrin Aikens Davis and others.

The users argue that Facebook violates the federal wiretap law by receiving data about logged-out users when they visit sites with the "like" button and other social widgets.

Facebook hasn't yet filed court papers regarding allegations that it tracked logged-out users, but the company's motions in another pending privacy class-action lawsuit -- also stemming from the "like" button -- indicate it will argue that the users weren't harmed by the alleged tracking.

That prior lawsuit, filed by California residents Ryan Ung, Chi Cheng and Alice Rosen, also deals with allegations regarding Facebook's ability to track users via the "Like" button. But that lawsuit was filed several months before Cubrilovic reported how Facebook was able to track logged-out as well as logged-in users.

Facebook argues that case should be dismissed because the users haven't given enough details about either how they were tracked by Facebook or affected by the alleged activity.

"The complaint relies on vague, generalized allegations that say nothing about the named plaintiffs or how they were harmed by Facebook," the social networking service argues in its motion to dismiss the lawsuit. "Nor have plaintiffs alleged that they ever attempted to -- or actually could -- sell information related to their browsing history."

U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey White has scheduled a hearing on that matter for December.

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