Judge Dismisses Facebook Lawsuit Over Tracking Logged Out Users

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Eric Lieberman Deputy Editor
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A U.S. judge reportedly threw away a legal complaint Friday alleging Facebook tracks users after they log out of their accounts.

Plaintiffs in the case assert that Facebook is violating both California and federal privacy laws by stockpiling cookies — data sent back and forth between an internet server and a web browsing platform. They argue that Facebook wrongfully uses the cookies (or data) from other websites for their own purposes, presumably marketing and targeted advertisements, according to Reuters.

U.S. District Judge Edward Davila of San Jose, Calif., said the plaintiffs failed to make their case, specifically that they suffered any “realistic” economic harm or that their privacy was significantly infringed upon. The judge argued, for example, that users could have taken steps to keep their browsing histories more private by manually disallowing interception of cookies. (RELATED: Google, Facebook Are Super Upset They May No Longer Be Able To Sell Your Internet Data Without Permission)

“The fact that a user’s web browser automatically sends the same information to both parties [Facebook and another website] does not establish that one party intercepted the user’s communication with the other,” Davila wrote, according to Reuters, alluding to the inherent settings of many internet browsing platforms.

Americans aren’t the only ones trying to push back against Facebook and other tech companies for their data collecting and handling practices. The EU, and member state Germany, on an individual level, have both launched formal and informal investigations into Google, Facebook and the larger tech industry, which is mostly based in the U.S. (RELATED: EU Threatens Massive Internet Censorship If Big Tech Won’t Come To Heel)

Germany’s Federal Cartel Office is currently looking into the possibility that Facebook is illegally collecting people’s private data. The bureau’s main argument is that the company is essentially taking advantage of people since most don’t read the stipulations written in the fine print of its terms and conditions.

The country also passed a highly challenged law in late June permitting the state to issue large fines if social media companies fail to remove “obviously illegal” content — which is considered hate speech, defamation, and calls for violence — within a 24 hour timeframe. (RELATED: EU May Demand That US Tech Companies Surrender Personal Data)

The European Union’s antitrust arm demanded Apple pay 13 billion euros (roughly $14.9 billion) in taxes last year. The same regulatory branch slapped a record $2.71 billion fine on Google in the end of June for allegedly favoring some of its price-comparison search results over those of its rivals.

While Europe seems to be moving forward with reprimands and official penalties, the U.S. judge’s latest decision somewhat shows that America may not be so eager to punish tech companies.

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