Facebook Can Track You After You’ve Logged Out, Not Responsible For Your Privacy Judge Rules

Some of the biggest tech giants in the world have a not-so-stellar reputation when it comes to user privacy. Facebook, the largest social networking site on this or presumably any other planet, is one of them. Facebook is known to track its users' online habits, even when logged out of the social networking site, and then delivering targeted ads when they're signed in. This was the focal point of a five-year lawsuit against Facebook, one in which the company emerged victorious.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit accused Facebook of using the "Like" buttons integrated into third-party websites to track their online whereabouts. The implication there is that Facebook could use that tracking data to build up detailed profiles of a person's browsing history, which the plaintiffs argued was a violation of both federal and state privacy wiretapping regulations. A judge who ruled in the case did not see things the same way.


The case was ultimately dismissed by US district judge Edward Davila in San Jose, California, on the basis that Facebook users do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy. He also found that Facebook users did not suffer any economic harm or loss as a result of Facebook's alleged tracking. Furthermore, the judge put the onus on Facebook users to protect their own privacy.

"Facebook’s intrusion could have easily been blocked, but plaintiffs chose not to do so,” Davila said. He also dismissed an earlier version of this case in 2015.

It is true that "Like" buttons can be embedded on external websites, and when a person clicks on one, the web browser relays that information to Facebook and the server that is hosting the site. According to Davila, this is not enough to establish a breach of wiretapping laws on Facebook's part.

"The fact that a user's web browser automatically sends the same information to both parties does not establish that one party intercepted the user's communication with the other," Davila said.

While Davila ruled against the wiretapping claims, he did leave the door open for the plaintiffs to file another lawsuit alleging breach of contract. That does not mean that Facebook is guilty of such a thing, just that the plaintiffs have another avenue to purse, if they choose.