Judge Tosses Out Facebook $15Bn Lawsuit

Facebook’s operations have been under scrutiny plenty of times and numerous cases have been filed against the platform. From the EU to the U.S., the company had to face some serious probes, investigations and litigation matters. One such nationwide litigation in the U.S. accused Facebook of tracking the activity of users even after they logged out of the network. Fortunately for Facebook though, U.S. District Judge Edward Davila in San Jose, California dismissed the case against the company and cited that the plaintiffs, ‘failed to show they had a reasonable expectation of privacy, or that they suffered from any realistic economic harm or loss.’

The 6-Year Case

This case against Facebook was nothing new. In fact, it had been initiated way back in 2012, in California’s federal court in a multidistrict litigation. During the years, the case has been tossed, fought back, tossed again and now finally reached a verdict. Let’s take a look at the timeline.

2012 – a Collection of 21 Cases

21 separate cases filed in different courts in 2011 were combined into one class-action suit against the network for invading users’ privacy. The cases highlighted how Facebook’s internet tracking saved users cookies and knowing what users are browsing even when they are off the platform’s pages. How does that work? Well, if users visited any page with a, ‘like,’ or ‘share’ button (which is literally on every page of the Internet), cookies in the browser send that information to Facebook. At the time of this case though, the plaintiffs had no idea of the implications of Facebook receiving their browsing information.

October 2015

After three years of litigation and Facebook’s vehement denial, Judge Davila tossed the $15 billion allegation ruling that users, ‘hadn’t suffered economic damage or show Facebook violated privacy laws.’ He stated that ‘The court accepts as true plaintiffs’ ascription of some degree of intrinsic value to their personal information for this motion. But what plaintiffs have failed to do is adequately connect this value to a realistic economic harm or loss that is attributable to Facebook’s alleged conduct.”

June 2016

For the next one year, Facebook ferociously defended its actions and refused to back down on the $15billion litigation. Time and again, the network filed a motion to dismiss the case as the defendant lacked allegations of any harm or injury. Against the users’ claims that their privacy rights were being violated, Facebook maintained the stance that the violation did not result in any harm or real damages which meant there was nothing wrong. The mere fact that a user’s privacy was being violated wasn’t sufficient enough to get a case rolling – actual damages were to be shown which was not possible for the violations didn’t result in leaking of personal information, or pose any immediate threat to users. Of course over the years, the tracking was used to improve Facebook’s targeted ads, but that didn’t affect users much.

July 2017

Finally, after 6 years of litigation, the judge tossed the lawsuit claiming that if users were concerned about privacy issues, they could take measures in keeping their histories private. The plaintiffs failed to show that Facebook, ‘illegally intercepted or eavesdropped on their communications.’

Talking about the cookies, the judge wrote, “The fact that a user’s web browser automatically sends the same information to both parties,” meaning Facebook and an outside website, “does not establish that one party intercepted the user’s communication with the other.”

For now, there is no comment from either the plaintiff nor Facebook, however, the judge has made it clear that the plaintiff cannot come with privacy issues again. If they have to file a suit, it could be to pursue a breach of contract claim which will open up another session of analysis and judgment.

Farah tries to keep up with the fast-paced tech world by writing about it. She covers latest tech news and writes informative pieces to help her readers make informed decisions about their tech preferences.