Facebook wins Power Ventures spam battle, but war isn't over

Facebook has won a December 2008 lawsuit against Power Ventures. Facebook accused Power Ventures of using Power.com to spam and Facebook users and steal data from the social network.

U.S. District Judge James Ware has declared Facebook the winner of its lawsuit against Power Ventures. The firm is the owner of former Power.com, a website that originally launched in November 2008 and enabled its users to aggregate data about themselves that is otherwise spread across various social networks and messaging services.

In December 2008, Facebook sued Power Ventures in federal court in San Jose, California. The social networking giant argued Power Ventures spammed Facebook users and also allowed them to retrieve their data from Facebook's servers without permission. More specifically, Facebook claimed Power Ventures sent more than 60,000 unsolicited commercial messages to Facebook users and intentionally circumvented measures that Facebook put in place to block Power Ventures' access to the site.

Power Ventures argued Power.com allowed users to access multiple social networking accounts from a single portal, while Facebook said it misled users into signing up for its service so that it could access their Facebook accounts and spam their friends. Power Ventures filed a motion to dismiss the case, which was denied, and alleged that Facebook was being anti-competitive by placing restraints on its ability to manipulate users' Facebook data even when their consent was given, but this also led nowhere. The Court agreed with Facebook and determined that Power Ventures' conduct violated state and federal law because their access to the site was "without permission" and that PV circumvented technical measures designed to stop such activity.

Power Ventures is based in the Cayman Islands, while the Power.com domain is currently up for sale. The court has asked Facebook for additional briefing on the amount of damages the company should be awarded and whether or not Power Ventures' founder and CEO, Steve Vachani, should be held personally liable.

"We are pleased that the court ruled in our favor," Craig Clark, Lead Litigation Counsel of Facebook, said in a statement. "We will continue to enforce our rights against bad actors who attempt to circumvent Facebook's privacy and security protections and spam people."

Facebook may be pleased, but the battle isn't over yet.

"Facebook has established a dangerous precedent for the future of users rights to own and control their data," Vachani said in a statement. "We intend to aggressively continue this fight."

"Facebook wants to prevent users from choosing follow-on innovation that it doesn't like, so it's asking the court to broaden computer crime laws in ways that would let it manufacture and cherry-pick lawsuits against users and competitors," EFF Senior Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann said in a statement. "Facebook's position would create legal uncertainty for tech start-ups everywhere, stifling innovation and competition. No one would want to challenge a behemoth like Facebook with the specter of criminal charges looming over interoperability."

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