Facebook is facing an unprecedented user privacy class action lawsuit accusing the social media giant of logging users’ phone calls and text message history.
Filed Tuesday in Northern California federal court, three Facebook users claim their privacy was violated when Facebook scraped call and text logs through the Facebook Messenger and Facebook Lite apps and exploited a vulnerability in users’ permission settings.
According to the Facebook user privacy class action lawsuit, plaintiffs Anthony Williams, Tyoka Brumfield, and Wendy Burnett share that when then installed the Facebook Messenger and Facebook Lite apps for Android, they granted permission for Facebook to access their “Contact List”, but did not consent to the scraping of their call and text logs.
When users install these apps, they are prompted to grant Facebook access to their “Contact List”. But upon doing so, the Facebook Messenger and Facebook Lite apps for Android “scrape users’ call and text logs”.
“Facebook takes call and text data going back years, including whether each call was “Incoming”, “Outgoing”, or “Missed,” the date and time of each call, the number dialed, the individual called, and the duration of the call. Facebook then incorporates this data into its profile on each user which it monetizes for advertising purposes,” the lawsuit states.
Nowadays, it seems with most messaging apps, we get a pop up notification on our phones asking permission to access our contacts. Most of us say yes without even really giving though to what that means. But think about it…by granting permission, you’ve just given companies like Facebook, access to all the phone numbers and contact data stored in your cell phone. Now every text or phone call you make is available to Facebook. Say you’re texting your mom about brunch plans. Next time you log on to the internet, you see ads for local restaurants or brunch deals. Seems like a coincidence? Well, it’s not. It part of the information Facebook collects from you and then monetizes for advertising purposes.
This practice of intruding on over 50 million users’ privacy and not disclosing that they were doing so is the center of the Facebook user privacy class action lawsuit. The plaintiffs all contend that while they were fine with Facebook accessing their contacts, what they are not okay with is they were not told that by using Facebook Messenger and Facebook Lite apps, years of their call and text logs could be scraped and then monetized for advertising purposes – all at the expense of users’ right to privacy.
The Facebook user privacy class action lawsuit does note that this vulnerability was fixed in October 2017 and Facebook reportedly stopped the practice of scraping users’ call and text logs. However, the data collected through the apps has never been purged.
The complaint comes on the heels of recent accusations that Facebook and Trump-related data analytics firm, Cambridge Analytica may have engaged in a data minin scheme, accessing users’ information without their permission during the 2016 presidential campaign. Specifically, the allegations say that Cambridge Analytica exploited 50 million Facebook users’ personal data in order to manipulate the election. Still, it doesn’t play well for Facebook.
Williams, Brumfield, and Burnett seek to represent a nationwide class of Facebook users who installed the Facebook Messenger and Facebook Lite apps for Android and granted Facebook permission to access their “Contact List”, along with a New York subclass. The Facebook privacy class action lawsuit is asking the court to grant compensatory, statutory, and punitive damages, along with an injunction requiring Facebook to purge it extant call and text logs acquired through Facebook Messenger and Facebook Lite apps.
The plaintiffs and the proposed Class are represented by L. Timothy Fisher and Scott A. Bursor of Bursor & Fisher PA.
The Facebook User Privacy Class Action Lawsuit is Anthony Williams, et al. v. Facebook, Inc., Case No. 3:18-cv-01881-MEJ, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.