Facebook sued over illegal collection of user data

Posted:
in iOS
A class action suit has been filed against Meta, claiming that Facebook and Instagram iOS apps circumvented App Tracking Transparency in order to illegally continue tracking users without permission.

Mark Zuckerberg
Mark Zuckerberg


Since iOS 14, Apple's App Tracking Transparency (ATT) requires apps to cease tracking users unless that user explicitly allows them to continue. Facebook has famously objected to ATT, and revealed that it has had an impact of more than $10 billion on its projected earnings.

According to Bloomberg, however, a proposed new class-action lawsuit claims that Facebook and Instagram owner Meta has been circumventing ATT and collecting data, regardless of user preferences and opt-out.

The suit, filed in San Francisco federal court, is based on research from data privacy researcher, and former Google engineer, Felix Krause. He claims that Facebook and Instagram inject JavaScript code into websites visited by users.

Krause says that this JavaScript code allows Meta to track "anything you do on any website." That goes further than the regular advertising tracking, and even theoretically includes the ability to capture passwords typed into sites.

The suit further alleges that Facebook opens web links in its own in-app browser, rather than using Safari or whatever the user's default browser is.

"This allows Meta to intercept, monitor and record its users' interactions and communications with third parties," says the suit. In doing so the suit also says that it also that data collected to boost advertising revenue, contrary to user preference.

Meta has not commented publicly on the suit. However, Krause's report says that the company acknowledged that it monitors browser activity, but denied the accusation of illegal data collection.

The two cases at the core of the class action filing are Willis v. Meta Platforms Inc., 22-cv-05376, and Mitchell v. Meta Platforms Inc., 22-cv-05267, both filed in the US District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

Read on AppleInsider

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 18
    ReactJS framework under review. Now is Google Angular better? Hmmm...
    williamlondon
  • Reply 2 of 18
    I have no line for Facebook and all of the plaintiffs claims may be true but are they illegal? I have no idea. Is there a law that says companies must abide by user preferences or something similar?
    dewmebyronlwilliamlondonFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 3 of 18
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 10,025member
    So what? Lawyers will get a few million and Meta will go on as usual. User data is their life’s blood. Without it they go belly up. Nothing is free and advertising is what we pay. Not saying it’s okay but this is just how it is. Government can do only so much without taking over the economy and we don’t want that.
    byronlwilliamlondonFileMakerFeller
  • Reply 4 of 18
    rob53rob53 Posts: 3,009member
    I finally got my renewal for the iOS (only?) AI subscription so I don't get ads but it doesn't apply to AI forums so I still get garbage ads on my iPhone even though I'm paying to not get them. Using Safari's tracker capability on my iMac, this forum page has three trackers: doubleclick.net, google-analytics.com, and googletagmanager.com. Using Duck-duck-go's privacy essentials, it shows a B+ rating, tries not load some google things but still loads others. I honestly don't believe there's a way to stop any website from loading at least some trackers.

    Tried to delete them on my iMac.


    Still allowed these.


    byronlbaconstangAlex1N
  • Reply 5 of 18
    I have no line for Facebook and all of the plaintiffs claims may be true but are they illegal? I have no idea. Is there a law that says companies must abide by user preferences or something similar?
    You raise a good point about the state of US privacy law, particularly in comparison to the EU's GDPR.  US privacy law is sector based and offers very specific protections (like HIPAA covering medical information in many contexts) as opposed to the broad and general protection of GDPR that is focused on the private information.

    In the US, the Federal Trade Commission can go after a company for violating their own posted policies as "unfair and deceptive acts and practices"  even if the privacy information didn't have other specific legal protection.

    The law is the FTC Act, see Section 5.  federal-trade-commission-act
    edited September 22 darkvaderbyronlboboliciouswilliamlondonFileMakerFellerAlex1N
  • Reply 6 of 18
    lkrupp said:
    So what? Lawyers will get a few million and Meta will go on as usual. User data is their life’s blood. Without it they go belly up. Nothing is free and advertising is what we pay. Not saying it’s okay but this is just how it is. Government can do only so much without taking over the economy and we don’t want that.

    I don’t see how laws preventing the massive data collection of users without their consent is “taking over the economy”.
    williamlondonFileMakerFellerAlex1N
  • Reply 7 of 18
    dewmedewme Posts: 4,387member
    I have no line for Facebook and all of the plaintiffs claims may be true but are they illegal? I have no idea. Is there a law that says companies must abide by user preferences or something similar?
    I think you nailed it. The feature in question is an Apple thing, more like Apple saying that all visitors in its house must remove their shoes. Along comes Facebook who says “f-you Apple, I’m keeping my shoes on.”

    What we have here is Facebook refusing to abide by Apple’s rules in Apple’s house. What should be done here is that Apple throws Facebook out of its house for failing to respect Apple’s house rules. There is no need to get the legal system involved in any way, shape, or form. At least in theory and in terms of basic human respect, common courtesy, and dignity. 

    Unfortunately, with the current anti democratic sentiment against winners in the tech sector, the court would probably intervene if Apple kicked Facebook to the curb, which Facebook so richly deserves. 


    boboliciousbyronltdknoxFileMakerFellerAlex1N
  • Reply 8 of 18
    First experience with FB raised flags with new 'features' set with all roads set to FB data collection, including as I recall resetting prior privacy settings to default collection...

    I have been asking about recent macOS prefs in a similar light, especially Siri privacy with the seemingly buried ML 'Learn from this App' default to on and now (12.6?) an added setting to 'Show Siri Suggestions in App'...?

    While Mr Cook makes seemingly carefully worded statements about 3rd party privacy and direct data sales, should we be concerned about a Siri data or machine learning market strategy (even if 'anonymized') seemingly in collecting so much 'Learning' without a front and center request...?

    Is CoreML worth a deep dive Apple/FB/Google/Twitter data mining comparison ?

    I am reminded of www.googleandtheworldbrain.com/ and ask if this is the Apple World Brain equivalent...?

    'Learn from this App' were all set to on after a recent migration, without as I recall any obvious request or warning, even when Siri was turned off and all data deleted from iCloud also selected...?


    edited September 22 williamlondongatorguyFileMakerFellerAlex1N
  • Reply 9 of 18
    dewmedewme Posts: 4,387member
    First experience with FB raised flags with new 'features' set with all roads set to FB data collection, including as I recall resetting prior privacy settings to default collection...

    I have been asking about recent macOS prefs in a similar light, especially Siri privacy with the seemingly buried ML 'Learn from this App' default to on and now (12.6?) an added setting to 'Show Siri Suggestions in App'...?

    While Mr Cook makes seemingly carefully worded statements about 3rd party privacy and direct data sales, should we be concerned about a Siri data or machine learning market strategy (even if 'anonymized') seemingly in collecting so much 'Learning' without a front and center request...?

    Is CoreML worth a deep dive Apple/FB/Google/Twitter data mining comparison ?

    I am reminded of www.googleandtheworldbrain.com/ and ask if this is the Apple World Brain equivalent...?

    'Learn from this App' were all set to on after a recent migration, without as I recall any obvious request or warning, even when Siri was turned off and all data deleted from iCloud also selected...?


    I think your concerns are legitimate to the extent that we should always be very wary about exposing personal information to anyone. Even when the individual data sources are anonymized, if the individual data sources are aggregated and collectively stored, maintained, and built upon, it is entirely possible for machine learning and inference engines to develop a probabilistic estimation about the common source of the data based on the data, context, and behaviors associated with the data. It may not be a very good match, unless of course the tiniest bit of personalized data leaks into the aggregated collection, at which point the anonymity of the entire data collection is totally compromised.

    But here's the catch ... all of this is predicated on trust relationship you have with the entity that you are sharing any data with, whether or not the data is anonymized. You have to somehow determine through whatever mechanisms available to you whether you trust whomever you are dealing with, not only based on your personal confidence in them, but also their demonstrated competence in maintaining privacy protections.

    So far and for me personally, Apple has proven itself to be reliable and competent when it comes to privacy protection. I trust Apple today but I still keep an eye open, you know, the old "trust but verify" model. Facebook on the other hand lost my trust years ago. Facebook's repeated demonstrations of incompetence when it comes to surveillance and privacy coupled with their continuing attempts to circumvent the privacy protections that Apple has put in place only reinforces the validity of my decision not to trust Facebook or its leaders.
    ihatescreennamestdknoxAlex1N
  • Reply 10 of 18
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 10,025member
    lkrupp said:
    So what? Lawyers will get a few million and Meta will go on as usual. User data is their life’s blood. Without it they go belly up. Nothing is free and advertising is what we pay. Not saying it’s okay but this is just how it is. Government can do only so much without taking over the economy and we don’t want that.

    I don’t see how laws preventing the massive data collection of users without their consent is “taking over the economy”.
    Well, there already ARE laws and they don’t work do they.
    williamlondon
  • Reply 11 of 18
    danoxdanox Posts: 1,169member
    I have no line for Facebook and all of the plaintiffs claims may be true but are they illegal? I have no idea. Is there a law that says companies must abide by user preferences or something similar?
    No means no……
    Alex1N
  • Reply 12 of 18
    danoxdanox Posts: 1,169member
    dewme said:
    First experience with FB raised flags with new 'features' set with all roads set to FB data collection, including as I recall resetting prior privacy settings to default collection...

    I have been asking about recent macOS prefs in a similar light, especially Siri privacy with the seemingly buried ML 'Learn from this App' default to on and now (12.6?) an added setting to 'Show Siri Suggestions in App'...?

    While Mr Cook makes seemingly carefully worded statements about 3rd party privacy and direct data sales, should we be concerned about a Siri data or machine learning market strategy (even if 'anonymized') seemingly in collecting so much 'Learning' without a front and center request...?

    Is CoreML worth a deep dive Apple/FB/Google/Twitter data mining comparison ?

    I am reminded of www.googleandtheworldbrain.com/ and ask if this is the Apple World Brain equivalent...?

    'Learn from this App' were all set to on after a recent migration, without as I recall any obvious request or warning, even when Siri was turned off and all data deleted from iCloud also selected...?


    I think your concerns are legitimate to the extent that we should always be very wary about exposing personal information to anyone. Even when the individual data sources are anonymized, if the individual data sources are aggregated and collectively stored, maintained, and built upon, it is entirely possible for machine learning and inference engines to develop a probabilistic estimation about the common source of the data based on the data, context, and behaviors associated with the data. It may not be a very good match, unless of course the tiniest bit of personalized data leaks into the aggregated collection, at which point the anonymity of the entire data collection is totally compromised.

    But here's the catch ... all of this is predicated on trust relationship you have with the entity that you are sharing any data with, whether or not the data is anonymized. You have to somehow determine through whatever mechanisms available to you whether you trust whomever you are dealing with, not only based on your personal confidence in them, but also their demonstrated competence in maintaining privacy protections.

    So far and for me personally, Apple has proven itself to be reliable and competent when it comes to privacy protection. I trust Apple today but I still keep an eye open, you know, the old "trust but verify" model. Facebook on the other hand lost my trust years ago. Facebook's repeated demonstrations of incompetence when it comes to surveillance and privacy coupled with their continuing attempts to circumvent the privacy protections that Apple has put in place only reinforces the validity of my decision not to trust Facebook or its leaders.

    Apple and Microsoft don’t need to sell you to make money, your relationship with them is to buy actual goods from them, our government local/state/federal doesn’t want to enforce the few laws that are on the books (they do fight hard for corporations however), so someone has to take the non violent non riot work within the system approach thru the courts.
    edited September 22 Alex1N
  • Reply 13 of 18
    ... might marketing on trust and privacy be a potential concern for disclosure of crowd sourced IP for collection and AI resource development ...?

    edited September 22 Alex1N
  • Reply 14 of 18
    lkrupp said:
    So what? Lawyers will get a few million and Meta will go on as usual. User data is their life’s blood. Without it they go belly up. Nothing is free and advertising is what we pay. Not saying it’s okay but this is just how it is. Government can do only so much without taking over the economy and we don’t want that.

    Until we get real data protection laws with criminal penalties, class action suits are the best we've got.

    And government could do a much better job of regulating the economy than they're doing.  Lots of us DO want that.
    FileMakerFeller
  • Reply 15 of 18
    ... also a feature in iOS for every app ...


    Alex1N
  • Reply 16 of 18
    ... also a feature in iOS for every app ...


    Makes more sense from a UI/UX point of view to have that defined in the Siri preferences, rather than spread throughout the preferences of individual apps. But I don't know how they're exposing the option through the various software frameworks; maybe it's easier to code this way.
    Alex1N
  • Reply 17 of 18
    ... also a feature in iOS for every app ...


    Makes more sense from a UI/UX point of view to have that defined in the Siri preferences, rather than spread throughout the preferences of individual apps. But I don't know how they're exposing the option through the various software frameworks; maybe it's easier to code this way.
    It certainly seems to need more effort to maintain, both to find initially and then keep off, as every new app download seems to default to 'learn' mode ...  Would a 'deep dive' into the implications be helpful...?

    From: www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/jul/02/facebook-google-data-change-our-behaviour-democracy

    "Data ownership is an individual solution when collective solutions are required. We will never own those 6m predictions produced each second. Surveillance capitalists know this. Clegg knows this. That is why they can tolerate discussions of “data ownership” and publicly invite privacy regulation."
    edited September 26 Alex1N
  • Reply 18 of 18
    ... is screen time another potentially invasive 'feature' like so many that have been rolled into the macOS since 2011 ?  

    On and unrestricted by default putting the onus on the user(s) experience to turn such off manually vs globally, perhaps akin to Photos auto indexing which has no opt out...  Should this be on by default or on an opt in basis only and include a global off setting for apps...?
    edited September 27 Alex1N
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