Judge: Facebook can Track Browsing Activity Even When You Log Out

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Last Friday a Judge dismissed a lawsuit accusing Facebook of tracking users’ Internet activity even when they are logged out from their account.

The U.S. District Judge Edward Davila in San Jose, California said in his judgment that the plaintiff failed to show they had a “reasonable expectation of privacy,” or that they suffered any “realistic economic harm or loss.”

The plaintiffs claimed that the social media giant Facebook used its “like” buttons on other websites to store cookies on their web browsers which allowed the company to track users’ Internet activity even when they are logged out of their account.

Not only that it was against users’ privacy but also violated the federal and California privacy and wiretapping laws. But Judge Davila dismissed the lawsuit stating that the plaintiffs failed to show any evidence of wiretapping or eavesdropping, reports Reuters.

Davila said that plaintiffs could have protected their privacy by keeping their browser history private or by using Facebook in “incognito mode.”

“The fact that a user’s web browser automatically sends the same information to [Facebook and another website] does not establish that one party intercepted the user’s communication with the other,” Davila wrote.

Using the Facebook “like” button on a third-party website, for instance, hackread.com lets users share the content on Facebook without the hassle of copy pasting the link on their Facebook account’s status bar.

Upon clicking the embedded Like button, the browser sends the data to Facebook and to the server of that third-party website.

“The fact that a user’s web browser automatically sends the same information to both parties does not establish that one party intercepted the user’s communication with the other,” said Davila.

Now that the case has been dismissed a spokeswoman from Facebook told The Guardian: “We are pleased with the court’s ruling.”

However, back in Europe, a similar lawsuit was filed against Facebook in 2015 in which the Belgian Privacy Commission accused the social networking site of using plug-ins and cookies to track Internet activities of users who either deleted their profile or never signed up for an account.

A Belgian court then ordered Facebook to stop tracking internet users within next 48 hours or pay a fine up to 250,000 euros per day.

In reply, Facebook claimed that the tracking was caused due to a bug in their system and they are working to fix it as fast as possible.

In another case, Europen Union Commission warned users to leave Facebook if they don’t want to be spied on. However, the privacy concerns while using Facebook are still there, and privacy advocates are seeking answers.

Australian internet security blogger Nik Cubrilovic first discovered that Facebook was apparently tracking users’ web browsing after they logged off in 2011.

Responding to Cubrilovic, Facebook engineer Gregg Stefancik confirmed that Facebook has cookies that persist after log-out as a safety measure (to prevent others from trying to access the account) but that the company does not use the cookies to track users or sell personal information to third parties.

However, in 2014 Facebook started using web browsing data for delivering targeted “interest-based” advertising – which explains why you see ads for products you have already been looking at online appear in your Facebook feed.

To address privacy concerns, Facebook introduced a way for users to opt out of this type of advertising targeting from within user settings.

“We are pleased with the court’s ruling,” said a Facebook spokeswoman.

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