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Google Privacy Your Rights Online

Users Sue Google, Facebook, Zynga Over Privacy 66

Posted by Soulskill
from the three-wrist-slaps-coming-up dept.
Trailrunner7 writes "A raft of class action lawsuits filed in Federal court charge the globe's biggest social networking firms with violating federal communications privacy laws, allowing advertisers to profit from personal information harvested from users. Weeks after the Wall Street Journal blew the whistle on lax data privacy standards on Facebook, a string of class action suits attempt to hold the social networking giant, as well as game company Zynga and Google liable for what the suits contend are lax practices that allow advertisers to harvest personal information on Web users. The suits are seeking monetary damages on behalf of potentially millions of users of the three companies. The suits allege that the users' personal information has been leaked to advertisers and other unauthorized individuals, in violation of the companies' privacy policies and a number of state and federal statues protecting the confidentiality of electronic communications."
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Users Sue Google, Facebook, Zynga Over Privacy

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  • Who would have thought that posting something to a vast world wide network could result in many people seeing it? It's getting so you can't shout out your front door without people hearing you. You also can't post secrets on billboards without them being read by passers by. What is the world coming to?

    • by countSudoku() (1047544) on Friday October 29, 2010 @05:35PM (#34068368) Homepage

      Stupid us for thinking that password protection, and a friend's only policy on viewing, coupled with the search feature turned off, would protect us from the facebook's unwillingness to do it's core job; connect me with some people without sharing what I would consider private among my friends with the whole fucking social network eco-system scam. Silly me, why not just get rid of the password, right, bro? I mean, if it's public EVERYONE should be able to login as anyone else? What's the difference? Why don't you post your facebook username and password and back up your lame position, friend? Otherwise, your argument == FAIL.

      I see a whole shitload of angry villagers armed with pitchforks, burning torches, and small handmade weapons heading towards the fucking Social Network Bubble...

      • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

        Did you read the terms of service? did it say ANYWHERE in there that your profile is YOURS and that nobody can use the data that you provide them and they store for you free of charge to do with as they please?

        if you don't like they way a system works: there's nobody making you use it.
        • Did you read the terms of service?

          Of course he didn't. No one who actually read the Facebook ToS would actually click on the 'I Agree' button.

    • by dunezone (899268) on Friday October 29, 2010 @05:58PM (#34068590) Journal

      Who would have thought that posting something to a vast world wide network could result in many people seeing it? It's getting so you can't shout out your front door without people hearing you. You also can't post secrets on billboards without them being read by passers by. What is the world coming to?

      Does the billboard have a locked door in front of it that only certain people have a key to?

      Facebook does but you know what they did? They decided to allow a second door, this second door didn't require a key but it only let you see a portion of the board. A portion that was previously behind a locked door that you already restricted access to.

      • If you imagine the internet as a billboard, a password is NOT a wall blocking that billboard.

        the internet operates like a billboard. everything is accessible to anybody connecting to it. some of it may be in an envelope saying "don't read me!" and some of it may be in a code you don't understand. in the case of a "profile" like facebook, your data is not "password protected" but rather the username/password combination is instead your token for the guard standing watching one section of the billboard.
    • by bonch (38532) on Friday October 29, 2010 @06:02PM (#34068646)

      Boy, I sure am tired of seeing this old argument trotted out in every one of these articles. There is a reasonable expectation of privacy if you are only connecting to friends. Nobody expects the apps they're playing to be sending private information out to advertisers.

      You're a sign of the change happening to posters here. Years ago, this community used to be very pro-piracy. Tor stories used to hit the front page. These days, it seems privacy only matters when it enables risk-free piracy, because it seems like the only time people get pissed off about privacy anymore is when user IPs are requested from ISPs for downloading copyrighted materials.

      Do you seriously believe that the mere fact you connect to the internet means all your private information should be distributed to everybody? Does ANYBODY here remember when one of the major appeals of the internet was its anonymity? I guess Google has conditioned you into accepting that everything gets indexed, archived, and sold to advertisers. Even your emails.

      It really is true--people can be trained to accept a chipping away at their individuality and their rights if it's done gradually over time.

      • if you give it to people that are storing it "free of charge":

        then yes, I expect all information I provide in such a way to be sold to the highest bidder and traded like a commodity. if I didn't want that to happen: I'd not give it away for free.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      OTOH, if you make use of a secured storage locker in a public facility you do have some expectation that people walking by are not going to be able to inventory everything you stored there.

      Social networking web sites are public storage facilities. Your accounts, being yours and secured by a password, should not be open air cages with mechanical arms for insiders to go sifting through.

      Would you use the lockers at the gym if you knew that every moron with an employee badge could go sifting through it or, wor

  • Class Action (Score:2, Insightful)

    No "Users" are suing these companies, Lawyers are suing. No User will gain much benefit from the results of the suit, win or lose, lawyers will.

    This is nothing but a get rich quick scheme for Lawyers.

    • To be fair, it keeps the lawyers busy from doing something even more nefarious, so the user (and society) will gain indirectly. Besides, I think the corporate powers that be need a good, strong kick in the teeth about privacy issues anyway. The fact that it will be delivered by some scum-sucking bottom feeder doesn't bother me in the least.

      • by mysidia (191772)

        To be fair, it keeps the lawyers busy from doing something even more nefarious, so the user (and society) will gain indirectly.

        I am not sure of that. These are probably lawyers that specialize in class actions like this one, taking advantage of the court's paranoia and ignorance about technology and technology-related issues.

        Only a fraction of lawyers are into this specific thing, and this is no distraction for the lawyers who are not.

        I think the corporate powers that be need a good, strong kick in t

    • This is nothing but a get rich quick scheme for Lawyers.

      I always thought the best class action suit would be against every state and municipality for not making street signs accessible to the blind under the ADA.
      • by mysidia (191772)

        I always thought the best class action suit would be against every state and municipality for not making street signs accessible to the blind under the ADA.

        It should probably be a bigger issue, that for some reason, they won't even give a blind person a driver's license.

        Totally ridiculous, I tell you.... not only do they discriminate against blind people in this way... they actually perform medical tests on you, and discriminate against anyone who has a medical condition of vision poorer than 20/40.

        A

    • No "Users" are suing these companies, Lawyers are suing.

      A suit seeking certification as a class action must be brought by one or more specific plaintiffs who are members of the class. So it is incorrect to say no users are suing the companies.

      As is often the case when people sue other people, the people suing have lawyers working for them.

    • by eln (21727)
      Not true. This will probably get settled out of court and all members of the class will be entitled to something very valuable, such as a free packet of seeds or the down payment on a tractor in Farmville.

      I always find it funny when I get those notices of class action settlements in the mail: "You might have been screwed over by Company X. Fortunately for you we filed a lawsuit on your behalf and after a confidential settlement you're entitled to $5 off whatever it is Company X sells! Lucky you!"
    • by dunng808 (448849)

      This is nothing but a get rich quick scheme for Lawyers.

      Same bunch chasing after drug companies, so many ads on TV these days, "Were you or anyone you know injured or killed after taking Dr. Zonk's Elixer?"

      A lot in common with patent trolls, waste lots of people's time and money hoping to strike gold.

  • Facebook staff have been amazed to discover that when Facebook passes users' complete details to application developers and advertisers, some of the partner companies might accidentally let slip the information in some manner.

    "We are appalled at this information leak," said Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg as he took a break from his personal RSS feed of drunk women's tits posted to his service. "But I can assure you that we have sternly suggested to everyone involved that they take somewhat greater care not to get caught, and maintain a serious demeanor when rolling around in the great big pit filled with money in their basement."

    "I'm horrified and outraged," said office worker Brenda Busybody, 43 (IQ), "that stuff I put on the Internet is on the Internet. It violates everything I expect. I want privacy when I'm calling my boss a useless fuckstick to the entire world, all my coworkers and my boss himself. And when I'm playing a bit of FarmVille before we nick off down the pub."

    Privacy advocates are working on Diaspora, a security-enhanced social network so far populated by Linux users who cryptographically sign every update about which episode of Babylon 5 they just finished watching alone in their parents' basement. "START PGP KEY BLOCK!" said open source software advocate Hiram Nerdboy, 17. "WE WILL PROTECT YOUR FREEDOMS!" The next version of Diaspora will allow users to list more than three friends, should there be any demand whatsoever for such a feature.

    Facebook works on the now-standard "Web 2.0" business model: 1. Brutally sodomise the personal privacy of anyone who comes within a mile of your service and say "hey baby, I'm sorry" every time you're busted. 2. Sell ads.

    Image: Abort the fetus, win a Playstation 3! [newstechnica.com]

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      BEGIN, not START. HTH.

    • Privacy advocates are working on Diaspora, a security-enhanced social network so far populated by Linux users who cryptographically sign every update about which episode of Babylon 5 they just finished watching alone in their parents' basement

      Unfortunately, they aren't. There's no indication from the Diaspora project that anyone with even a basic knowledge of security or cryptography is involved. A social networking protocol designed by paranoid people is exactly what we want, but Diaspora seems to be focussing entirely on the UI.

      • Best of both worlds! Oh, and it needs KDE and GNOME interfaces, neither of which contains everything the user would want. I don't know how they'll manage that with a web application, but I'm sure there's nothing open source can't produce.

  • state and federal statues protecting the confidentiality of electronic communications.

    I knew that the government was full of gargoyles, but I didn't know it was so literal!

    • by mbkennel (97636)

      "state and federal statues protecting the confidentiality of electronic communications."

      Yo! You talking 'bout me? --- Antonin Scalia
      Yeah! What he said! --- Clarence Thomas

  • They chose to give away their information. This is the fault of the user and no one else.

  • Not surprising? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by iONiUM (530420) on Friday October 29, 2010 @05:21PM (#34068220) Homepage Journal

    Regardless of the fact that 'things you put on the internet are now public', there is a point that these companies are a little devious in their methods of selling your information. I think mistakes are being made on both sides: users assuming everything is private (I have no idea why), and companies abusing that fact.

    I don't think anything will come of this lawsuit except media attention, which will hopefully make users smarten up, thus making this less of an issue.

    My $0.02..

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      users assuming everything is private (I have no idea why)

      It's simple, really. Human intuitions about the privacy of their communications developed over the thousands of years before there was an Internet, or even written communication. They're wired that way. So are you, even if on a conscious level you know better. That's why stuff like OTR encryption is so important -- not because you have something to hide, but because it better aligns your intuitions about the confidence of your remarks with reality, and you intuitively know how discreet you need to be.

  • So, what are they complaining about? Don't want Facebook to harvest your data - pretty easy problem to solve - DON'T USE FACEBOOK.

    Agree to their TOS? Well what do you have to complain about? No one forces anyone to signup for Facebook or to use Google

    Take some fucking personal responsibility you god damned nitwits.
    • by geekoid (135745)

      too bad facebook violated the ToS.

      You fucking nitwit.

    • by Vancorps (746090) on Friday October 29, 2010 @05:37PM (#34068386)
      Fantastic and insightful, now the part in TFS even mentions that Facebook in particular violated it's own privacy policy so they aren't even following the TOS that you agreed to. When a site is advertised as a way to share information with just friends and then that information is available to more than your friends then you have some seriously false advertising. Sure people were naive to believe a free service could have enough integrity to do this but it's definitely not as simple as you make it out to be as people are inherently social beings and as such want to extend their network of friends beyond the people they see everyday.
    • by OverlordQ (264228)

      Take some fucking personal responsibility you god damned nitwits.

      I think you missed the point entirely, the point is facebook et al are not following their own policies.

  • Lumped Together (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Shadow Wrought (586631) * <<shadow.wrought> <at> <gmail.com>> on Friday October 29, 2010 @05:33PM (#34068354) Homepage Journal
    In reading TFA there are actually three suits. One against Zynga, one against Zynga and Facebook, and one against Google. The one against Google seems by far the weakest since it alleges that the information that Google anonymizes is being put back togetehr by third parties and then sold. The Zynga and Facebook clims seem to be a straight sale of your personal data. I'd guess the suits against Zynga and Facebook make it further than the one against Google, just because there is a more direct allegation. That plus Google seems to consult with its lawyers before doing things.
    • by butlerm (3112)

      It is extremely unlikely that any of these plaintiffs claims under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act [wikipedia.org] and the Stored Communications act will hold up, simply because they appear to be completely inapplicable to the sharing of profile information on individuals, anonymized or otherwise.

      The laws almost certainly govern disclosure of the contents of person-to-person messages and possibly the contents of some Facebook postings, but I seriously doubt that Facebook et al have been distributing the contents

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      DON'T USE FACEBOOK.

      Yeah, except that at some point that's like saying "DON'T USE THE WEB". These things have a way of becoming necessary for even entry-level participation in society as a whole. I'm not saying Facebook is there yet, but it looks to be heading in that direction. The time to bring the Zuckerbergs of the world to heel is BEFORE we make their services a part of societal infrastructure.

      Take some fucking personal responsibility you god damned nitwits.

      In some sense, this is like telling people who voted for Gore to take responsibility for Bush's mess. Facebook effectively has a m

    • I always scratch my head when I read comments about how zynga and co sell your data 'cause they're the big bad... A quick search shows zynga making ridiculous money from virtual good sales, completely legal, completely legit. Why would a company that is reportingly earning millions bother to sell data? Not only does it risk it's reputation but it seems to do so for a revenue that would be pale in comparison to it's legit business. I dunno, I just don't see it...but ive been wrong once before.
  • I cannot believe that violating an internal privacy policy is actionable in any way. Perhaps they need to change their policy, but the fact is the policy is something the organization came up with and posted. It is not any binding agreement on the organization with their users.

    Anyone that believes there are laws against disclosing information to advertisers needs to have a better understanding of how advertising on the Internet works.

  • Even if they did successfully sue and win because my data was sold, I will never see a cent of that money. I think that's even worse than selling the info in the first place. Both are horrible. What has this world come to?
  • You mean my data is unsafe when dumped into the GIANT ABYSS that we all call the world wide web!?! Get a clue loosers!
  • The lack of your privacy had always been stated by Facebook, Google, and other companies as far as I know (with the exception of google collecting open-wifi connections). I'm a stickler for privacy but realistically I don't see a reason why anyone has the right to sue a service about privacy when it was stated in their TOA and Privacy Policy to begin with, unless there are certain privacy things that weren't mentioned in it which can be understandable. However, as mentioned many times before, this looks l
  • Interestingly enough the newspaper that "blew the whistle" has the same parent company as MySpace, NewsCorp.
  • The suits are seeking monetary damages on behalf of potentially millions of users of the three companies.

    Cool! I'm a user of google and facebook, so if they win, I'll get some mone... oh, wait...

    I simply don't understand how this idiotic flood of lawsuits from everyone suing everyone else is still allowed. I mean, has anyone stopped to think of how much time and money is wasted on stupid cases? Not that this subject isn't important but come on, seeking monetary damages on behalf of the users?! WTF?!

  • It's truly egregious how little Facebook cares for the privacy of what we choose to post on their website. Especially when you consider how much we have to pay to use Facebook. Oh, wait...
  • The bonus part for me is I'm a dual citizen of both the US and Canada and under Canadian law have a constitutional right to Privacy that is continually violated by these guys. And Canada doesn't think Corporations are People. Neither does the EU.

  • Users are largely incidental to the business model we're seeing exposed here.
  • This is apparently all because HTTP has a referer field (unless the user turns it off in the browser), so clickthroughs on ads have the url you were on when you clicked. FB has lots of urls with user id's in them, which lead to pages with the user's public information, friends, etc. Researchers have already crawled most of these urls without much trouble, but the definition of "giving away private information" seems to have changed a bit under the influence of lawyers.

    Nowadays it looks like FB puts ad cli

  • It has been quite popular that the Hollywood stars cooperate with designers of Christian Audigier to release the clothes series.

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