Judge Sides With Facebook In Privacy Battle Over Tracking

Siding with Facebook, a federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit accusing the company of violating users' privacy by tracking them via the "Like" button.

U.S. District Court Judge Edward Davila in San Jose ruled that the people who sued had not established a "reasonable expectation of privacy" in the Web site pages they visited. He noted in the ruling that the plaintiffs could have blocked cookies, used "incognito mode" browser settings, or installed plug-in "browser enhancements."

"Facebook’s intrusion could have been easily blocked, but Plaintiffs chose not to do so," Davila wrote.

Davila's ruling stemmed from a series of lawsuits dating to 2011, when a group of Web users accused Facebook of violating a host of federal and state laws by collecting data about people through its social widget. The consumers said Facebook gathered data about its users whenever they visited sites with a "Like" button, even when users were logged out of Facebook.

The judge also dismissed several other claims, including allegations that Facebook violated the federal wiretap law by allegedly intercepting people's communications. He ruled that Facebook didn't "intercept" communications on sites with a "Like" buttom.

"As Facebook points out, two separate communications occur when someone visits a page where a Facebook “like” button is embedded," Davila wrote.

In that situation, people's browsers send requests to both the publisher's site, and also to Facebook's servers, Davila wrote. "The fact that a user’s web browser automatically sends the same information to both parties does not establish that one party intercepted the user’s communication with the other."

Davila also dismissed a claim that Facebook violated its "duty of good faith and fair dealing," but the ruling allows the plaintiffs to beef up their allegations regarding that one claim and try again.

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