Facebook Says Location Privacy Lawsuit Too Vague, Seeks Dismissal

A class-action complaint accusing Facebook of surreptitiously storing information about users' locations is still too vague to move forward, the company argues in new court papers.

The complaint “fails to specify what, if any, location-related information was actually collected by Facebook when their location settings were off,” the company writes in a motion asking U.S. District Court Judge James Donato in the Northern District of California to dismiss the lawsuit.

Donato already dismissed an earlier version of the lawsuit, but did so without prejudice -- meaning that the users could reformulate their allegations and bring them again.

The users did so earlier this year, but Facebook argues that the new complaint still doesn't contain enough specifics to warrant a lawsuit.

The battle dates to October 2018, when California resident Brett Heeger brought a lawsuit alleging that Facebook “secretly tracks, logs, and stores location data for all of its users -- including those who have sought to limit the information about their locations that Facebook may store in its servers by choosing to turn Location History off.”

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His complaint focused on allegations that Facebook stores data about users' “estimated locations,” inferred from their IP addresses, as well as data gleaned from data about WiFi connections. The complaint includes claims that Facebook's alleged IP-logging violates the federal wiretap law and California privacy laws.

Last December, Donato threw out the complaint on the grounds that it contained only “bareboned and vague” allegations.

Heeger and other Facebook users brought an amended complaint in February, but Facebook argues that the new version of the complaint still lacks details.

“While Plaintiffs rely on a series of reports and articles that purport to show that Facebook theoretically could infer locations as precise as a street address in certain circumstances, they do not allege that Facebook actually inferred Plaintiffs’ locations with any precision,” Facebook writes. “Plaintiffs fail to allege the frequency with which Facebook supposedly inferred these locations, and because they admit that any collection was only intermittent.”

Facebook is asking Donato to dismiss the case again, with prejudice this time -- meaning that the users wouldn't be able to amend their claims and try again.

Separately from the lawsuit, Facebook has faced criticism on Capitol Hill over location practices.

Sens. Christopher Coons (D-Delaware) and Josh Hawley (R-Missouri) recently accused Facebook of undermining people's ability to control information about their whereabouts by capturing location data from IP addresses and WiFi connections. “Location data is among the most sensitive personal information that a user can share with a company,” Sens. Christopher Coons (D-Delaware) and Josh Hawley (R-Missouri) said in a letter to the company last year. “If a user has decided to limit Facebook's access to his or her location, Facebook should respect these privacy choices.”

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