The case rested on Facebook’s placement of cookies in users’ browsers. These cookies track users’ visits to non-Facebook sites containing Facebook “like” buttons. The plaintiffs claimed that this violated federal and California law.
However, Judge Edward Davila said that the plaintiffs had failed to show that they had any reasonable expectation of privacy while browsing the internet, or that they had suffered any “realistic” economonic harm or loss.
The dismissal of the case is a huge win for Facebook—even though the judge did decide that the company does track users on non-Facebook sites.
The gag order stops Facebook from informing three of its users that the company has been issued with government search warrants relating to their accounts. The warrants seek the users’ account information in connection with public events, but Facebook are currently unable to let the users in question know.
Facebook wishes to inform these users, and also wishes to give them the ability to respond to the warrant requests.
It would appear, then, that Facebook has the interests of its users at heart—at least in terms of informing users about what information has been requested. But it’s undeniable that Facebook is still undermining the privacy of its users by tracking their online activities even when they are logged out of Facebook.
When it comes to privacy, it seems that Facebook are giving with one hand and taking with the other.
Of course, many users concerned about privacy have already terminated their Facebook accounts. Until we reach a better solution, that may be the only clear path for those with concerns.