A federal judge said Monday that Facebook has a warped idea of privacy after he ordered the company to face a lawsuit seeking damages from allowing third-party sites to harvest users’ data.
U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria in San Francisco rejected Facebook’s argument that there was no “tangible” harm done and that users shouldn’t expect full privacy with the information they share on social media.
“Facebook’s motion to dismiss is littered with assumptions about the degree to which social media users can reasonably expect their personal information and communications to remain private,” Judge Chhabria wrote. “Facebook’s view is so wrong.”
The judge ruled that Facebook users can apply state and federal laws to go after the social media giant for selling their information without consent to app developers such as Cambridge Analytica, which illegally gathered data from as many as 87 million Facebook users to influence elections.
At least 100 individuals are suing Facebook in this case.
He also slammed Facebook’s “all-or-nothing” stance and accused them of being inconsistent with its privacy stance, referring to a California case where the social media giant compared people’s data stored on their profiles as privileged information equivalent to the privacy of their smartphones.
Judge Chhabria wrote that this position is “closer to the truth than the company’s assertions in this case.”
“Sharing information with your social media friends does not categorically eliminate your privacy interest in that information,” he added.
According to Reuters, Facebook said safeguarding users’ information is “extremely important,” but the plaintiff’s lawsuit does not fall out of line with their disclosures when signing up for the site.
The lawyers of the plaintiff, Lesley Weaver and Derek Loeser, praised the decision, saying in a statement they are “especially gratified that the court is respecting Facebook users’ right to privacy.”
Their 414-page complaint accuses Facebook of misleading customers into thinking their information was only shared in a “limited” fashion, but it allowed companies like Airbnb and Lyft to gain access because they were “preferred.”
• Dan Boylan contributed to this article.
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