Facebook Seeks Dismissal Of Location Privacy Class-Action

Facebook is asking a federal judge to dismiss a privacy lawsuit accusing the company of collecting users' IP addresses and deducing their approximate locations, even when the users attempted to prevent location tracking.

“IP addresses are freely, publicly, and automatically shared as a necessary component of every internet communication,” Facebook writes in papers filed Friday with U.S. District Court Judge James Donato in San Francisco. “Any party to such communication can estimate the location of the other party’s IP address by using generally available online tools.”

Facebook's argument comes in response to a lawsuit by Colorado residents Brendan Lundy and Myriah Watkins, who allege that Facebook collects and stores information about users' locations, even when users attempt to prevent location tracking. The duo alleged in a complaint filed last year that they learned of the location data after using a Facebook tool that enables users to download information about themselves.

Both say that their folders marked “location_history” didn't reveal data, but that other folders -- including “security_and_login_information,” “login_protection_data” and “where_you’re_logged_in” -- revealed specific location data going back to 2014.

They initially also sued Google and Apple, but dropped claims against those companies earlier this year.

In September, the duo claimed in an amended class-action complaint against Facebook that the company violated California privacy law and that it misrepresented its policies by failing to explicitly tell users that it would glean information about their locations regardless of their location-privacy settings.

“Facebook’s App settings concealed from plaintiffs and class members that even if their location settings and location history settings were turned off in their respective devices, Facebook would nevertheless track their locations, without their permission, using their IP addresses and enhanced location determination techniques, and collect and store this information,” they alleged.

Facebook counters in its new papers that it has never concealed its IP-address practices.

“Facebook has been transparent about its collection and use of IP addresses, and ... has even built tools that allow users to see that Facebook continues to collect IP addresses and infer estimated locations when the settings at issue are off,” Facebook writes.

The company also says its alleged practices don't amount to the kind of “egregious” acts that would potentially violate people's privacy.

“Estimating location based on IP addresses is both a routine practice and a publicly available function, and Facebook’s combination and use of that information to provide and improve Facebook’s services -- as disclosed in its Data Policy -- does not render that practice an 'egregious breach of social norms.'” Facebook writes. “Plaintiffs themselves apparently do not find this behavior especially shocking, as they continue to use Facebook even after learning of the practices they now challenge.”

Donato is expected to hold a hearing in the matter on February 13.

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