Feeds

Facebook accused of violating US wiretap law

'Like' cookies tracked users, even when logged out

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

A Mississippi woman has accused Facebook of violating federal wiretap statutes by tracking her internet browsing history even when she wasn't logged onto the social networking site.

In a lawsuit filed on Wednesday in federal court in the northern district of Mississippi, Brooke Rutledge of Lafayette County, Mississippi, also asserted claims for breach of contract, unjust enrichment, trespassing, and invasion of privacy.

The complaint, which seeks class-action status so other users can join, comes three weeks after Australian blogger Nik Cubrilovic published evidence that Facebook “Like” buttons scattered across the web allowed Facebook to track users' browsing habits even when they were signed out of their accounts.

“Leading up to September 23, 2011, Facebook tracked, collected, and stored its users' wire or electronic communications, including but not limited to portions of their internet browsing history even when the users were not logged-in to Facebook,” the 17-page complaint stated. “Plaintiff did not give consent or otherwise authorize Facebook to intercept, track, collect, and store her wire or electronic communications, including but not limited to her internet browsing history when not logged-in to Facebook.”

The complaint claims the behavior violated provisions of Facebook's own privacy policy that state: “If you're logged out or don't have a Facebook account and visit a website with the Like button or another social plugin, your browser sends us a more limited set of information. For example, because you're not logged in to Facebook, we don't receive your User ID.”

But according to Cubrilovic Facebook cookies containing unique identifiers remain on a user's hard drive and are sent back to the social network each time he visits a third-party site containing a Facebook Like icon.

“Even when you are logged out, Facebook still knows and can track every page you visit,” Cubrilovic wrote.

Facebook has since said that many of the cookies Cubrilovic referred to are intended to foil spam and phishing attacks and that not all of the data sent back to the social networking site is logged.

Wednesday's complaint is the latest to seek redress for alleged privacy violations that result from cookies and other files that websites use to track the browsing habits of their visitors. In the past 18 months, Disney, Microsoft, McDonalds, and others have all been sued, often for using technologies that respawn tracking cookies even after users have deleted them. Many of them have been tossed out of court because plaintiffs couldn't quantify monetary damages that resulted from the practice.

Facebook representatives didn't respond to an email seeking comment for this post. ®

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
BMW's ConnectedDrive falls over, bosses blame upgrade snafu
Traffic flows up 20% as motorway middle lanes miraculously unclog
LibreSSL RNG bug fix: What's all the forking fuss about, ask devs
Blow to bit-spitter 'tis but a flesh wound, claim team
Mozilla fixes CRITICAL security holes in Firefox, urges v31 upgrade
Misc memory hazards 'could be exploited' - and guess what, one's a Javascript vuln
Putin: Crack Tor for me and I'll make you a MILLIONAIRE
Russian Interior Ministry offers big pile o' roubles for busting pro-privacy browser
Manic malware Mayhem spreads through Linux, FreeBSD web servers
And how Google could cripple infection rate in a second
Don't look, Snowden: Security biz chases Tails with zero-day flaws alert
Exodus vows not to sell secrets of whistleblower's favorite OS
Researcher sat on critical IE bugs for THREE YEARS
VUPEN waited for Pwn2Own cash while IE's sandbox leaked
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.