Today's lawsuit, filed in Federal Court in San Jose, California, combines 21 separate cases across the U.S. in 2011 and early 2012. It's an amended consolidated class-action complaint that claims the company is invading the privacy of its users by tracking them across the Internet. If the claimants are successful in their case against Facebook, they could prevent Menlo Park from collecting the huge amount of data it collects about its users to serve ads back to them.
Like the previous lawsuits, Facebook is once again being accused of violating the Federal Wiretap Act, which provides statutory damages per user of $100 per day per violation, up to a maximum per user of $10,000. The complaint also asserts claims under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the Stored Communications Act, various California Statutes, and California common law. It's worth noting that similar cases against Facebook and others filed under the wiretap law have been thrown out because browser cookies are simply not considered wiretaps and plaintiffs have difficulty proving any harm.
Stewarts Law is one of the firms leading the claim. "This is not just a damages action, but a groundbreaking digital-privacy rights case that could have wide and significant legal and business implications," David Straite, a partner at Stewarts Law, said in a statement.
The company responded by denying the claims and offering an explanation as to why its cookies behave the way they do. Menlo Park explained that it does not track users across the Web and its cookies are used to personalize content. As for the logged-out cookies, Facebook said they are used for safety and protection.
After a long technical discussion, Cubrilovic confirmed Facebook made changes to the logout process, and that the cookies in question behave as they should. They still exist, but they no longer send back personally-identifiable information after you log out. The company also took the time to explain what each cookie is responsible for.
Later that month, 10 privacy groups and US congressmen sent letters asking the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate Facebook for these and other practices. Note that the FTC settlement from November 2011 was over charges that date back to December 2009, meaning the tracking cookie issue was never discussed.