A Mississippi woman has filed a lawsuit against Facebook for its practice of tracking users' online activity even while logged off their social networking accounts.
ABC News reports that Brooke Rutledge of Lafayette County, Miss., filed a complaint stating: 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.
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.
Facebook vehemently denies the allegations and told ABC News, We believe this complaint is without merit and we will fight it vigorously.
However, Facebook did admit to inadvertently tracking users with cookies.
Other groups did not see this as so inadvertent.
ABC News reports that EPIC, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, upholds that Facebook actually used supercookies which are more problematic than regular cookies.
It is difficult for users to keep up with Facebook's frequent changes and adjust their privacy settings accordingly, quotes David Jacobs of EPIC in the ABC article, and the company has not clearly explained what it plans to do with the wealth of new user information that will be collected as a result of the new applications.
But Facebook maintains that the entire issue is overblown.
This is not the first lawsuit of its kind that the social networking giant has had to face, but the issue has gained more attention because of the recent launch of the Timeline and Ticker features in September
Lawmakers urged the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the questionable practice of tracking users when Australian blogger Nik Cubrilovic revealed that Facebook was tracking users' Web consumption after the had logged off of their profiles.
The two representatives at the helm of this push were Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Tex.). They wrote a joint letter to FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz on Wednesday saying that they are concerned about this monitoring of personal online activities.
When users log out of Facebook, they are under the expectation that Facebook is no longer monitoring their activities. We believe this impression should be the reality, the lawmakers wrote.
Though Facebook may view this single lawsuit as trivial, if the case spawns a class-action lawsuit the company may face Goliath instead of David.
Major class-action lawsuits can deliver a blow to even the largest of corporations. A $11 billion lawsuit for sexual discrimination was filed against Wal-Mart in 2000 and represents every female employee of the company since 1988. The Dukes vs. Wal-Mart Stores case is still pending.
Another example is the Master Tobacco Settlement from 1998, where each individual state filed suit against the six largest tobacco companies. This resulted in $206 billion over 25 years.