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Facebook Sued For Violating Wiretap Laws

samzenpus posted about 2 years ago | from the join-the-club dept.

Cloud 284

An anonymous reader writes "Facebook is being sued in multiple states for tracking its users even after they logged out of the service. All the lawsuits allege the company violated federal wiretap laws. The most recent lawsuit, filed by a Mississippi woman, says: 'Leading up to September 23, 2011, Facebook tracked, collected, and stored its users’ wire or electronic communications, including but not limited to portions of their internet browsing history even when the users were not logged-in to Facebook. Plaintiff did not give consent or otherwise authorize Facebook to intercept, track, collect, and store her wire or electronic communications, including but not limited to her internet browsing history when not logged-in to Facebook.'"

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284 comments

sorry no (4, Funny)

Osgeld (1900440) | about 2 years ago | (#37734092)

There is no way we can let go of this invaluable resource over a few lawsuits. Clearly the wiretap laws need to be changed or we will not have our greatest resource ... worthless information for dumb fuck advertising!

Re:sorry no (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37734108)

Or worse---unlimited data for the sake of "national security"!

Re:sorry no (2)

Cryacin (657549) | more than 2 years ago | (#37734244)

Wonder how many FacePalms there were at FaceBook after this little verdict?

Re:sorry no (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 2 years ago | (#37734582)

Wonder how many FacePalms there were at FaceBook after this little verdict?

There should not have been any. This is not rocket science, from a legal perspective. Either Zuckerberg ignored the advice of his attorneys ... or never bothered to consult them in the first place.

Facebook more than deserves any fallout from this because there was no need for it.

Re:sorry no (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37734414)

There is no way we can let go of this invaluable resource over a few lawsuits. Clearly the wiretap laws need to be changed or we will not have our greatest resource ... worthless information for dumb fuck advertising!

Sure you can, I blocked facebook.com and facebookmail.com on the company firewall and mail servers months ago, aside from a minor bit of bitching/teething no one noticed after a week.

Re:sorry no (1)

Pf0tzenpfritz (1402005) | more than 2 years ago | (#37734756)

It's not only dumb fuck advertising, There also is dumb online games advertising, dumb TV-show advertising, dumb fashion advertising...

Dumb Question (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37734096)

Dumb-question guy here: how can a web site gather users' "internet browsing history even when the users were not logged-in to Facebook"?

Re:Dumb Question (5, Insightful)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | about 2 years ago | (#37734138)

Put a "Like" button on every page they visit and store the Referrer field when the button gets downloaded.

Re:Dumb Question (1)

sortadan (786274) | more than 2 years ago | (#37734330)

Wouldn't that be tracking the communication that the person's browser initiates with Facebook? If there is a law that say logging out of a website has to delete all cookies cookies and wipe any record or what IP you're using, I call dibs on Google.

Re:Dumb Question (5, Insightful)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 2 years ago | (#37734500)

That is correct as far as it goes. But the problem there is that you have no way to know, ahead of time, what sites might have Like buttons and what sites not. By the time the page is downloaded, and you see the Like button there, it already has you tracked.

Currently, the only way to prevent that is to use a script blocker to block Facebook's javascript from running. Which I do. But it's not a satisfactory solution... they should only be able to track you if you give your explicit permission. What they are doing now is sneaky and unethical, given that most people don't even know they're doing it.

Re:Dumb Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37734698)

Absolutely correct. Someone still on dialup internet would see the page loading stall for facebook.com/plugins/like or facebook.com/plugins/likebox or facebook.com/plugins/recommended. If they have cookies enabled, they just got a Facebook cookie, thus they have been tracked. By the way, also do a View Source if the page is http and not https, and chances are good that an opengraphprotocol namespace is being used on that page. Lately, I've noticed that's even the case lately with YouTube--maybe not a like button, but using the opengraphprotocol namespace.

Re:Dumb Question (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 2 years ago | (#37734702)

They stopped with the cookies. Weeks ago.

And really, the only reasonable solution is to (try to) educate people so that they understand how gregarious a web page can be and suggest techniques for controlling them.

(You say 'script blocker', but RequestPolicy can prevent the http connections, and cookie blockers/managers reduce exposure. I expect the long term solution is to revert to only sharing cookies that the user has explicitly whitelisted for a given domain or whatever)

Re:Dumb Question (2)

TeamSPAM (166583) | more than 2 years ago | (#37734334)

There is also the cookie stored in your browser, You may not be logged in to facebook, but the cookie will still tell them who you are.

Re:Dumb Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37734618)

If you're dumb and allow third party cookies.

Re:Dumb Question (1)

AngryNick (891056) | more than 2 years ago | (#37734338)

so....what's the name of the facebook-blocking add-in for Chrome and Firefox?

Re:Dumb Question (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37734634)

so....what's the name of the facebook-blocking add-in for Chrome and Firefox?

i use two things:
adblock software
  - Firebug, to examine the offending frames, span's or div's within the DOM of the page that has the tracking element.
  - Ad blocking plug in. You need to find the URLS of annoying buttons browser-wart frames, and then blacklist the sites with the adblock software.

I don't work for these companies or OS products.
  I was very upset when a 'redesign' of a site that I use everyday to get news suddenly made my browser crawl, almost to the point of wedge. I started going after any frame or div that was absolutely placed within the browser, those annoying buttons that stick to the bottom of the page (do you remember seeing them before three months ago?). They are poxxed with the names of pre-IPO companies, darlings of the self-annoited kings of the world.

Why a company that has a successful site would want to give their site a pox, with buttons that most people don't know how to remove, baffles me! If I had a major site with a lot of traffic I wouldn't let it be subverted by the snoops and market-manipulators of the corporate brainwash factory.
Even if the buttons weren't tracking me I'd still find them offensive.

You absolutely can innoculate your browser from these intrusions into your user experience.

1. Install the software of your choice to do the following:
manipulate the DOM of a loaded page. (if you don't know what the DOM is, you don't need to know a lot about it to do what I am suggesting)
I loaded Firebug and every time I see a wart or pox-button on any page (especially the kind that don't go away or that stick to the browser frame) I do an 'inspect element' using the Firebug extensions.
2. When you see the element that is the offending one, delete it within Firebug (or whatever DOM manipulator that you choose to use). That way you can see if you have really found the correct div or frame that you need to black-list.
3. Using adblocker software blacklist the URL of the offending div or frame (if there is anything loaded you will see it in the code).
Usuaslly there is along string of things such as:
    http:// some site name.com/stuff that looks like jibberish but loads whatever it is that they are trying to load

you take the part that is
http:// some site name.com/
and delete the jibberish part. put a star wildcard at end of the URL to block everything from that URL.

4. Do a test by reloading the page to see if the adblock is working. If it is doing the trick the annoying frame-warts and pox-buttons will be removed!
Your browser will run quicker! You won't be plauged by mal-ware javascript insertions from ad sites (not accusing a reputible company of putting bad-code out there but . . . we all know that . . . uuh. . . stuff . . . happens.

Using top from a command shell I was able to verify that CPU processor time of the firefox process returned to a reasonable level.

It should be a design rule that an element doesn't stick to the frame of the browser. If they ever do I find the div and delete it with Firebug. Then I use the adblock, with the URL of the offending div or frame and that annoyance if firewalled away.

each of those divs that loads down a rouge page from some track-miestr site can be a monolith of bad code and malicious intent. It would only take a hack of any of these ad-monster sites to compromise large swathes of the Internet. They are a security risk of a very high order.
It isn't hard to innoculate yourself from broswer-frame warts and pox-buttons. What compelled me to do it was, as I said, the annoyance of a site that I like suddenly being poxed with buttons that don't scroll away.

Re:Dumb Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37734382)

"when the button gets downloaded"

Which you *do not have to do*.

If you don't want people to hear you, then stop shouting from the rooftops. Sending data to Facebook and then getting mad when they remember it just seems .. insane. Why would you send them something you don't want them to have?

Re:Dumb Question (4, Informative)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 2 years ago | (#37734422)

"when the button gets downloaded"

Which you *do not have to do*.

It happens automatically. See the "Like" button? It's because it's already been downloaded - even if you NEVER dealt with facebook. Facebook even tracks users vi IP+browser fingerprinting who they can't tie to an existing account so that if/when you DO sign up, they can match that history with you. Totally illegal.

Re:Dumb Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37734536)

So setup adblock to not connect to Facebook.

I really don't get the big deal. The Facebook "like" button is definitely a privacy invasion... but it's exactly the same as Google Analytics... I just block both of them. Are these states suing Google, too?

Who they REALLY need to sue. (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 2 years ago | (#37734640)

Hopefully they'll get a clue and sue the web site owners as well. There's no need for such detailed information.

Or eventually, we'll come up with "Consumer DRM" - where WE manage our own digital rights. After all, if it's good enough for Sony, it's good enough for you and me :-)

Re:Dumb Question (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37734648)

"See the "Like" button?"

No, I don't. I've NEVER seen one. Not once.

Again, you do not HAVE to request this button. If you don't want it, don't ask for it to be transferred to your computer. It's that simple.

"Totally illegal."

Sure, whatever. So now sites sending you data that YOUR OWN BROWSER requests is illegal? Would you care to stop knee jerking and think a little bit?

Re:Dumb Question (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 2 years ago | (#37734752)

Sure, whatever. So now sites sending you data that YOUR OWN BROWSER requests is illegal? Would you care to stop knee jerking and think a little bit?

I have a right to assume that the web site will act within the law, same as if I invite you into my home I have a right to expect that you would do the same. The web sites enabling such tracking are violating the law, as simple as that, so instead of YOUR knee-jerk reaction, why not think why people are cheesed off?

Web sites simply don't have permission to set ANY cookies without your permission - the fact that they set one if you opt out is also a violation of the law in, for example, Europe. The default should be opt out, not opt in.

Re:Dumb Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37734778)

It is certainly legal, and if it weren't, it wouldn't really be Facebook perpetrating the crime. The like button is only on the page, because the designer of the page put it there. When you surf to some random website you are implicitly allowing that they can include images from any other website. And if you surf to a website, I think you are implicitly allowing that that website knows your IP. So putting the two together, you are allowing Facebook to store your info. In other words, maybe Facebook isn't the one to complain about. It is the site that is embedding the like button. Facebook, after all, didn't hack the those websites to put the like button on them. The web designer put it there on purpose. If you feel like Facebook shouldn't get that info, then you should write the websites that carry a like button and tell them to stop, not whine about Facebook.

Re:Dumb Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37734150)

As I understand these things:

Facebook keeps a cookie with a unique identifier that persists after you logout. When you visit a site with an embedded "Like" button, the cookie is accessed and your unique identifier passed on. It's a pretty horrid practice.

Re:Dumb Question (1)

AwesomeMcgee (2437070) | more than 2 years ago | (#37734250)

Look, everyone has this all wrong, facebook didn't put the like buttons there, and clients are actively connecting to and making requests of facebook servers so there's NO interception. Facebook is merely mining there own server logs for what people are requesting from them. If this suit goes through it basically means you can no longer use cookies and mine your server logs.

Re:Dumb Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37734362)

Which is good. Cookies used without at least implicit consent (logging in, and not having logged out) are a problem.

The inclusion of a 'like' button on a webpage, which causes the browser to contact Facebook, is opaque to the user and doesn't imply consent, even if the user is also currently logged in to Facebook, though clicking on the button would.

And yes, restricting data-mining of logs is also good.

Re:Dumb Question (1)

mcavic (2007672) | more than 2 years ago | (#37734454)

If this suit goes through it basically means you can no longer use cookies and mine your server logs.

No, it means you can't track people when they visit someone else's site.

Re:Dumb Question (1)

fatphil (181876) | more than 2 years ago | (#37734614)

So you can no longer serve images which don't have you as the referer and mine your server logs?

Facebook seem the least culpable for this - other websites chose to add the buttons, and users' (unthinkingly) *initiate* communication with facebook. All fb are doing is giving people what is being asked for, and logging that transaction. This seems as badly thought out as the deep linking lawsuits in the past. Blame the browser writers for not defaulting to blocking 3rd-party images before blaming facebook for this.

Re:Dumb Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37734622)

Which would be the end of free internet sites and advertising revenue would plummet. Not that I care; I can afford to pay micro-transaction fees to use the sites I like. But many other folks may be a bit upset when they find their sites either shuttered or requiring payment.

Re:Dumb Question (0)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 2 years ago | (#37734540)

What mcavic said. Cookies are one thing, third party cookies are another thing entirely. You can control the websites you visit, but as a practical matter you have no control over what or how many third-party cookies that site sics on you without any overt warning.

Re:Dumb Question (4, Informative)

icebraining (1313345) | about 2 years ago | (#37734152)

See those Facebook "Like" buttons everywhere? They have Javascript loaded from Facebook's website. Even if you're not logged in, it creates a cookie with a random ID, which is then read when you access other sites with the button.

It's easy to reproduce, if they haven't changed it from a month ago: log off from FB, delete all cookies from their domains (fbcdn*, facebook*) and then load some pages with their button.
It worked for me even though I didn't even have an account.

Re:Dumb Question (1)

mattventura (1408229) | about 2 years ago | (#37734156)

I think this lawsuit is related to how the Facebook "like" buttons that are scattered throughout the internet allow FB to track you. Presumably, when you are not logged in, they still track you by cookie/IP/whatever.

Re:Dumb Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37734476)

By using a site that has the "Like This" button on it.

But Privacy Doesn't Matter! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#37734170)

Unless you earn too much, are a minority, have been raped or abused by an ex-partner, are too young or too old to have good judgment, etc.

If privacy isn't a right inherent to all people, then perhaps it is better if we enforce nudism. If we remove all of our clothing for queen and country, it would be much easier to spot any terrorist bombs.

consent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37734190)

This will be an interesting test of just how onerous terms you can put in your "terms of service" and have them stick, even though everyone knows that practically no one reads those terms.

Cookies cannot "unlawfully intercept" anything (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37734192)

The thing is that this tracking depends on cookies, which are actually sent by the browsers themselves (as per the HTTP spec). Of course I haven't analyzed all the Javascript so I'm not sure, but Javascript does not have the capability to perform any time of interception of network traffic. Of course, I don't know what Flash, etc. could do.

I highly doubt that there is any "unlawful interception" going on here and this is likely just more waste of taxpayer money because we, the technically apt, have to live with stupid politicians.

Re:Cookies cannot "unlawfully intercept" anything (0, Flamebait)

agm (467017) | more than 2 years ago | (#37734218)

Indeed. The user is intentionally using software that sends tracking information (cookies) to Facebook. It's the browser that is at fault, not Facebook. If you don't want tracking information sent to third parties, then stop using software that sends such information (or configure the software to not send it).

Re:Cookies cannot "unlawfully intercept" anything (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37734272)

"If you don't want tracking information sent to third parties, then stop using software that sends such information (or configure the software to not send it)."

Yes - they can only track WHAT YOU SEND THEM - even with the "like" button plastered all over. It's still your computer that sends them the data. If you don't want to, by all means, don't! I don't.

But don't expect the crowd here to understand this simple issue that you don't have to send them anything if you don't want to. If you actually *think* here, that puts you well outside the group norm, and you will be modded to oblivion by the group-think.

By the way this issue pertains also to google and various other data collection companies. Facebook isn't the only one who wants to track you. I hate facebook. I hate all such tracking. Thus, I do not send them data to track me with. Problem solved.

This reminds me of the people who eat at McDonalds every day, get fat, and then sue McDonalds for making them fat. Jesus! Just don't eat there! Nobody is making you do so.

Re:Cookies cannot "unlawfully intercept" anything (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37734304)

Yeah! They shouldn't use computers, either.

If you don't want bad shit to happen to your computer, then stop using computers. This is your fault. Your fault!

The only recourse is to throw your arms up in the air like a Fraggle, bend over, and take it. Not taking it is consent.

Re:Cookies cannot "unlawfully intercept" anything (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37734336)

"Yeah! They shouldn't use computers, either."

Nice straw man. I use computers every single day, and I am not tracked by Facebook. They can only track you *if you send them the data*. If you don't want to be tracked, don't bloody send it!

You get to chose what your computer does. It belongs to you. It obeys your commands. That's what it's FOR. If you don't want it doing something, then by all means, don't allow it to do that.

Re:Cookies cannot "unlawfully intercept" anything (3, Informative)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#37734498)

That's not true. Unless you avoid websites that have those obnoxious like buttons on them there's no way of avoiding them without blocking those domains and the related cookies. Which most people wouldn't do as they have no idea that they're being tracked by them.

Worse is that historically they track people who are logged out of FB or don't have an account to begin with.

Re:Cookies cannot "unlawfully intercept" anything (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37734746)

"there's no way of avoiding them"

That's not true. It is your computer which makes the request for the button. You get to control your own computer, so if you don't want to fetch the "like" button, then don't! Nobody is making you. It seems, well... insane actually, to request something to happen, and then get mad when it happens. If you were going to get mad, why did you ask for it in the first place?

Where, exactly, did this simple concept get lost? It's like watching a whole generation of human beings suddenly become chimps, and lose all capacity for even the most basic level of human reasoning.

Re:Cookies cannot "unlawfully intercept" anything (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37734726)

"I use computers every single day, and I am not tracked by Facebook"

You are so obviously stupid you even think you have an argument.

Think about this for a moment: what about sites you don't know in advance you don't want to send info to?

YES AND BIG YES!!! *Not* sending data to a given site (Facebook, in this case) forces you not only to take *positive action* to prevent it but to know *in advance* you don't want to send info to them.

Don't you still see the problem?

Re:Cookies cannot "unlawfully intercept" anything (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37734786)

"You are so obviously stupid you even think you have an argument."

Maybe you should learn to think before calling other people stupid.

You don't block every site with the FB button. You block the loading of the FB button itself. You do not have to know in advance which sites embed it - that would be idiotic.

Sheesh. Whatever happened to basic rational thought?

Re:Cookies cannot "unlawfully intercept" anything (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 2 years ago | (#37734350)

No, it's Facebook's fault. If some guy sells you stolen goods, you still have to give them back. Same principle.

Facebook are taking information from the browser, knowing full well that the person running the browser is unknowingly being deprived of privacy by his browser.

Re:Cookies cannot "unlawfully intercept" anything (1)

agm (467017) | more than 2 years ago | (#37734426)

This is not like receiving stolen goods. The user (via software they choose to use) is willingly handing Facebook this information. It's a bit odd to willingly hand someone something and then complain later about it. The best option is to stop handing them that information in the first place.

Re:Cookies cannot "unlawfully intercept" anything (2)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#37734506)

It's not willful if you've logged out in the meantime. Just because I have an account with Google for say email or YouTube, does not mean that I consent to have them tracking me when I'm making posts here, or possibly downloading porn.

Re:Cookies cannot "unlawfully intercept" anything (1)

agm (467017) | more than 2 years ago | (#37734626)

And yet you use software that you know sends this information. Being logged in or not isn't relevant. You've configured your software to send tracking information to any web server you browse to.

Re:Cookies cannot "unlawfully intercept" anything (1)

fatphil (181876) | more than 2 years ago | (#37734646)

The browser is willingly doing it. Website X has said "please connect to facebook for an image", the browser says "sure thing, I love facebook, I love them so much I even store data for, and share data with, them". The browser loves facebook because the user has either shown a love for facebook, or for all websites, and is simply doing what it thinks you want.

If you have given your consent for your browser to load 3rd party images on webpages, you *have* consented to have 3rd party websites tracking your web usage.

Re:Cookies cannot "unlawfully intercept" anything (1)

Score Whore (32328) | more than 2 years ago | (#37734734)

If you don't want google to know you're downloading porn (and exactly what porn you are downloading) (and any warez, etc.) then you'll need to make very sure that you never use a site that uses recapcha. Fucking google.

Re:Cookies cannot "unlawfully intercept" anything (1)

Narcocide (102829) | more than 2 years ago | (#37734656)

While I actually like where the logical conclusion of this argument goes, I just don't see it happening. What you're suggesting is only practical for most users to implement by turning off all cookies and scripting entirely, and Facebook could still trivially sidestep that unless you also turned off all images and all URLs for any embedded resources that are not on the current website's domain.

So, personally I'd like to back your argument and agree with you here. If everyone did this it would certainly take the wind out of Facebook's revenue and marketing plans (and many other social networks and news sites, no doubt) but I think we can also both admit here that the suggestion is impractical to the point of being absurd.

Re:Cookies cannot "unlawfully intercept" anything (1)

agm (467017) | more than 2 years ago | (#37734802)

I understand your point, but how does that relate to this law suit? At the end of the day this is not about Facebook taking your private information, it's about you *giving* that information. From a legal point of view that quite a big difference, regardless of how impractical it is to configure your software to stop handing this info to Facebook. There are a few Firefox add-ons that prevent this from happening without disabling cookies altogether.

Re:Cookies cannot "unlawfully intercept" anything (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37734430)

"Facebook are taking information from the browser,"

No. They are REQUESTING data from your browser. They cannot make your browser do anything at all.

It's more like someone walking up to you on the street and saying, "Hey, gimme $100". Then you say, "OK", and give them $100, and later get mad. Well, why did you give it to them in the first place, if you didn't want to?

They aren't "stealing" anything from anybody. That's crazy to even say.

Re:Cookies cannot "unlawfully intercept" anything (1)

Narcocide (102829) | more than 2 years ago | (#37734700)

Well, while the last sentence *might* be true since most browsers typically *do* give out cookies without asking your permission first, your analogy is totally flawed because most people's wallets do *not* automatically default to dispensing $100 by default when someone (usually without you even hearing it happen) asks your wallet (not you) directly for $100.

Re:Cookies cannot "unlawfully intercept" anything (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37734800)

But that default is *their choice*. If you don't want your wallet giving out $100 to strangers, then simply tell it not to! It does what you ask it to do. That's its entire purpose.

If you allow your wallet to do this, and then get mad when it does, you just look like a nutcase. If it bothers you, then don't do it!

Re:Cookies cannot "unlawfully intercept" anything (1)

cheater512 (783349) | more than 2 years ago | (#37734488)

That isn't what the law says though. The law only applies in wiretapping cases.

You can try and change the law to include tracking cookies, but you cannot apply the wiretapping law to this case.

Re:Cookies cannot "unlawfully intercept" anything (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 2 years ago | (#37734636)

That isn't what the law says though. The law only applies in wiretapping cases.

You can try and change the law to include tracking cookies, but you cannot apply the wiretapping law to this case.

I'll bet they can. "Wiretapping" doesn't necessarily have to involve wire. I'm not a lawyer, and I haven't read the statute in question, but if these States Attorneys didn't feel they had a case I doubt they'd have filed suit. Furthermore, even if the law doesn't sound to applicable to the technical types that populate Slashdot, odds are it can be made to sound that way in court. Just takes a friendly or misinformed judge to allow a twisted interpretation to stand. You just have to look at thirty-odd thousand RIAA copyright infringement cases for any number of stellar examples of how courts can get technical issues dead wrong.

Re:Cookies cannot "unlawfully intercept" anything (5, Informative)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 2 years ago | (#37734570)

"The user is intentionally using software that sends tracking information (cookies) to Facebook"

No, that is not the case at all. If it were, this would be a different story.

We're talking here about third-party cookies. These are images that come from servers OTHER THAN the one you are visiting. But when that image is downloaded from that foreign server, it gets a record of your ip and what the referring domain is.

The issue here is that while you can control what websites you visit, you have no control over what image bugs or javascript they install on their site, nor is there any way to tell in advance what they are. So you aren't voluntarily doing anything at all; in fact most of the time you probably don't even know it is happening. That does not fit the definition of "intentional". On the contrary; it is downright sneaky.

Tracking bugs like that are completely unethical, and if they are not in fact illegal they should be.

Re:Cookies cannot "unlawfully intercept" anything (1)

agm (467017) | more than 2 years ago | (#37734630)

That does not fit the definition of "intentional"

Configuring your browser so it sends cookies is intentional. You can change it so it doesn't. Being aware of this, and doing nothing shows that you consent (if you didn't consent, you wouldn't let your software send tracking information).

First Facebook, then ... (2)

PPH (736903) | more than 2 years ago | (#37734212)

... everyone else.

What FB is doing has already been done via banner ads provided from a few major ad sites for years (instead of 'Like' buttons). Its possible that Facebook is legally in a different position then the advertisers, since they (FB) can identify their users. But other then that, tracking is tracking.

Re:First Facebook, then ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37734290)

Which is why I do not send them data to track me with.

If you do send them the data, they will use it. If not facebook, then someone else. This isn't a problem with a legal fix: it'll just push the tracking into other countries without such laws. The only fix is to not send data you don't want to have tracked, which actually isn't all that hard to do.

Re:First Facebook, then ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37734438)

... everyone else.

Its possible that Facebook is legally in a different position then the advertisers, since they (FB) can identify their users. But other then that, tracking is tracking.

If you can substitute "then" for "at that particular time" in your phrase as in "First Facebook, at that particular time everyone else", your usage is correct. If you can't, as in "It's possible that Facebook is legally in a different position at that particular time the advertisers, since they (FB) can identify their users. But other at that particular time that, tracking is tracking", then you are a moran :P

Re:First Facebook, then ... (2)

MacGyver2210 (1053110) | more than 2 years ago | (#37734568)

Everyone else? Good.

This is invasive and illegal if you correctly read the laws and don't 'interpret' them to suit your donors and benefactors.

Hooray for Adblock + Antisocial filter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37734234)

If I wanted to see Facebook crap, I would join Facebook.

Re:Hooray for Adblock + Antisocial filter (1)

RazorSharp (1418697) | more than 2 years ago | (#37734316)

If I wanted to see Facebook crap, I would join Facebook.

I've used multiple extensions that claim to block Facebook stuff and they only work half the time. I still haven't found one to stop getting Facebook cookies. I have to delete them all the time even though I've never gone to Facebook's website. I can't go to any commercial website these days (except Google) without getting their crap on my computer.

Re:Hooray for Adblock + Antisocial filter (1)

fatphil (181876) | more than 2 years ago | (#37734722)

What's so hard about the "Never" answer, when asked if you want to accept a cookie from facebook? In firefox it's just two clicks - "always", "no".

If you don't want to be tracked via cookies... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37734252)

... then don't accept cookies. It's your own fault for using software which sends them information they can track you with.

Re:If you don't want to be tracked via cookies... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37734352)

But that requires the ability to perform basic logical reasoning, which is far beyond the ability of most humans.

Your solution cannot work for that reason: people are simply too stupid to comprehend it.

Congressional Hearing, perhaps? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37734254)

This is more important than Solyndra, the Manhatten Mosque, or any number of other things that received more time in Congress than they warrant from a bathroom toilet stall.

There's a reason I'm not a Facebook user, and why I'd be glad if the founders were thrown in jail.

Third party cookies? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37734256)

Is this about Third Party Cookies or Global Cookies where when you visit website A it makes a request to website B and website B sets the cookie? And in this case website B is Facebook and every website and their dog is making a request to it? Kind of like what Google is doing with Adsense and of-course so MANY other websites are doing.

  My question is... I thought there was some RULE ( hehe ;) whereby this Global cookie tracking thing was a no-no. Wasn't there a bunch of hoopla over this type of thing a few years back.

Misuse of wiretapping law. (3, Insightful)

BitterOak (537666) | more than 2 years ago | (#37734274)

As much as I dislike Facebook's rampant disregard for users' privacy, this is simply not what the wiretapping law is about. The wiretapping law is meant to cover interception by a third party of communications between two other non-consenting parties. What Facebook did is entirely different. With the consent of certain websites, the cookie mechanism is used to inform Facebook when users visit these sites. Facebook is not intercepting and recording any communications.

Many of us might not like Facebook, and may see this lawsuit as a victory, but misapplication of federal computer and communication laws sets a dangerous precedent for anyone who uses the Internet. Do something that pisses someone off? The Feds will find a law and twist it to make it fit your actions. If new laws are needed to cover emerging technologies, they should be considered by appropriate legislative and regulatory bodies. Then people can comply with the law or face the consequences. But if laws can be twisted to cover any behavior we don't like, it makes it difficult for anyone to be sure they are in compliance with the law.

Re:Misuse of wiretapping law. (2)

frosty_tsm (933163) | more than 2 years ago | (#37734308)

This is sort of like the "wire fraud" laws used against businesses. They never did anything related to wire fraud, but it's kind of a catch-all for "you did business in a shady way to get money from people." In this case, it's "you tracked people in a shady way."

What we really need is our laws to be updated to reflect technology rather than using laws created back when telegraph lines were high-tech.

Re:Misuse of wiretapping law. (5, Interesting)

Nidi62 (1525137) | more than 2 years ago | (#37734326)

If new laws are needed to cover emerging technologies, they should be considered by appropriate legislative and regulatory bodies. Then people can comply with the law or face the consequences. But if laws can be twisted to cover any behavior we don't like, it makes it difficult for anyone to be sure they are in compliance with the law.

But how can you know if a new law is required to cover a new technology without a judicial test of the existing laws? That is what the courts are designed to do: test and apply the laws to a given situation. Let this go to trial. If the courts shoot down the lawsuit due to these laws not applying, then you can go ahead and get new legislation passed.

Re:Misuse of wiretapping law. (2)

ILongForDarkness (1134931) | more than 2 years ago | (#37734440)

Agreed let it go to trial. I hope people don't get bribed into a settlement and Facebook get off "without accepting any guilt". I think being able to settle without accepting guilt in general is silly. You settle to save the cost of court and the risk of losing more money then the settlement is going to cost you. You shouldn't be able to get away without admitting that you did something wrong that is why you needed to pay. Somehow only individuals are expected to apologize when wrong and corporations are supposed to protect their "brand image".

Perhaps a catch all "I know it when I see it" clause is needed for tech. Tech is going to change quicker than legislation can. Streaming video okay? What about streaming from one persons iTunes library to another persons, isn't that just sharing something you own? Who knows. Courts should be able to weigh the case without having to wait 10 years for both houses to figure it out, especially since what they come up with will likely be hugely lobbied by special interests and likely not reflect common sense.

In this case as the judge I'd probably have to agree that the wiretappnig laws apply. Sure technically it is your browser talking to Facebook and telling it who you are but the thing is you've logged out, as far as a "reasonable person" would think you are no longer on Facebook but on company Xs website. You didn't chose the banner ad that was presented but if it happens to be one from Facebook they get your info, but if another companies ad happened to be shown your browser won't have "chosen" to send info to Facebook? It doesn't pass the "reasonable person" test since if I really wanted Facebook to know my browsing habits I would have installed something willingly that would talk to Facebook regardless of the ad (we don't go to sites usually because we want to look at their ads but for the content on the page).

Re:Misuse of wiretapping law. (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 2 years ago | (#37734482)

All good and fine when it's facebook, a multi billion dollar company facing the charges. They will probably get off. But I don't think people would have the same attitude if it was a much smaller entity getting charged, without so much means to defend itself.

Re:Misuse of wiretapping law. (5, Insightful)

Bill Dimm (463823) | more than 2 years ago | (#37734434)

With the consent of certain websites, the cookie mechanism is used to inform Facebook when users visit these sites.

Is that true? Did the website operators displaying a Facebook "like" button actually know that it allowed their site users to be tracked by Facebook even if the button was not clicked? The tech-savvy ones might have realized that that was a possibility, but I would guess that a lot of website operators put the button on their pages to allow their users to "like" a page, not for the purpose of allowing Facebook to track them. Car analogy: If I give my car keys to a mechanic to change the car's oil, that doesn't mean I've consented to having him install a GPS tracker so he can monitor me.

Re:Misuse of wiretapping law. (2)

fatphil (181876) | more than 2 years ago | (#37734684)

Your analogy has nothing in common with the situation in question at all.

The situation is basically no different from the old 1x1px transparent web bugs of old. The tech savvy have known the implications of those for over a decade: the first google hit points to 1999, http://news.cnet.com/2100-1017-243077.html , but they go back a while before that.

Re:Misuse of wiretapping law. (2)

Bill Dimm (463823) | more than 2 years ago | (#37734784)

Your analogy has nothing in common with the situation in question at all.

Nothing at all? Facebook is given access to another website's users for one reason (to supply a "like" button), and it uses the opportunity to do something else (tracks the user). Likewise, the mechanic is given access to my car for one purpose (change oil) and uses the opportunity to do something else (install GPS tracker).

The situation is basically no different from the old 1x1px transparent web bugs of old. The tech savvy have known the implications of those for over a decade...

Please re-read the post by BitterOak that I was replying to, and you'll see that it is different. BitterOak claimed that it isn't wirefraud because wirefraud involves interception by a third party when neither party consents, and he claims that websites displaying a "like" button have consented. I've never posted a Facebook "like" button on a website, but if Facebook simply provides some HTML code and says "paste this into your website so users can 'like' your page" without explaining that pasting the code in will also allow Facebook to track the website's visitors, how can Facebook claim that the website operator gave consent for that tracking? It's like saying that I consented to a mechanic putting a GPS tracker in my car because I took it in for an oil change. If a website operator puts a 1x1 pixel web bug into his/her page, he/she almost certainly knows that it is being used for tracking -- there isn't much opportunity for him/her to think that it serves some simpler purpose like displaying a "like" button.

Re:Misuse of wiretapping law. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37734708)

Is it facebook's fault that when given a piece of embeddable, executable javascript, they were too lazy and inept to see what a technically savvy person could have in 15 seconds?

Oh wait, let me guess--you're like my old manager who taught IT at a local community college and thought she was tech smart because she could use Excel macros. And even wrote HTML back in like 1998. Not that she knew a fucking thing about how the protocol worked, how cookies were sent, how CGI worked... it was all just "magic" she pushed over frontpage's FTP.

Sure, facebook didn't go out of their way to advertise this, but that's because it's irrelevant to the function they offered. If you're going to load my script, and my image, using my high-speed CDN and bandwidth--I can't help but fucking know about you.

And if you've got a cookie--I still know who you are--logged in or not.

If you think this is bad, try looking at the little thing called google-analytics and ask yourself what google knows about you! Or maybe comscore--it's right here on *this* page you're reading.

Then look at the other CDNs commonly in use that have data sharing arrangements. And then when you're done being inept, think for a split fucking second about the marketing and analytics firms like what I mentioned above. You know, that are also everywhere and /served/ via CDNs? Once again making the vast majority of your access...visible.

And hey--it takes a single damned piece of paper in an agreement to aggregate that data and traffic and maybe start sharing it. Is that too dangerously close to a wiretap for you and your general counsel? Okay, I'll serve a randomized beacon via the CDN and have it resolve via ultrafast caching DNS (installed at the ISP because we paid for it to sit there) and it'll forward the report back to me later.

Your car analogy fails. When your car automatically and programmaticaly stops at every fucking mcdonalds it happens to drive past because every store includes instructions to it right before the exit (bottom of webpage) it's your fault for not getting a better driver.

And this is why car analogies...suck. It's a damned computer. And you're the idiot that thought it would be a good idea to let some random website execute any piece of programming that some underpaid shithead from delhi thought to put on it. In addition to what every psychotic from marketing thought they could add in for a few cents on their next paycheck. In addition to whatever the undermanned IT team thought to include from Google to save time and cost and figured it's just your privacy vs their time and budget.

YOU. Made. The. Choice.

Not microsoft. Not Google. Not Apple or Adobe.

It's your damned computer, and your damned website. And you were too inept, incompetent, or lazy to think for a split second that the 'freeby' might have some other cost, or even to fucking ask someone that knew about it.

Yes, I'm ranting.

If you're a web developer and you can't talk HTTP natively, you make me sick.

Re:Misuse of wiretapping law. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37734516)

I doubt you really understand the level at which these marketting people have tracked everyone on the Internet. The amount of bandwidth needed to do this must be considerable! They basically are tracking people as they click around the pages, logging every site, putting a time stamp on the various page requests. Do you like that they know every site that you go to if you don't do advertisement blocking and ad-site black-listing?

You have no idea how far they have taken this. None. They have crossed a line and it sure seems like tapping to me becuase the communication that they tap is the request and order of request for data. You you like everyone knowing every book you pickup in a book store? Do you want everyone to know what rocks and pebbles you examine on a beach? At what level is this an invasion of privacy when my private behavior is fodder for their attempts at hypnosis and brainwashing?

How is what they do different from pointing a telescope into someone's living room and watching their keystrokes and mouse moves with a telephoto lens? Ya, of course it is different. What they do is a far easier and more accurate way to get the data.

If you really have no problem with them tracking you does the frivilous use of power resources to do all of this not present some kind of environmental concern? Do corporations and the government realy have a need to know all my keystrokes and mouse clicks?

If you are not a shill for these web-trackers then you really can't have thought about this for very long. And you probably don't know anything about web-page architecture.

Re:Misuse of wiretapping law. (3, Informative)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 2 years ago | (#37734616)

"Facebook is not intercepting and recording any communications."

Yes, it is, at least in a sense.

Facebook is recording your IP, What sites you visit, and when. While it isn't recording any other communications, it doesn't need to in order to violate privacy.

What Facebook is doing is equivalent to a Pen Register used on telephones. The Pen Registers record what calls are being made, when, and to what number. But they don't record any actual conversations.

But even Pen Registers are illegal, and can only be used by Law Enforcement under strict conditions. The standard of evidence for allowing use of a Pen Register is lower than for actually tapping a phone line and listening to the conversations, but it is still legal only for law enforcement and it still requires due process, meaning they have to petition a judge for permission, and explain their evidence.

Re:Misuse of wiretapping law. (1)

Aighearach (97333) | more than 2 years ago | (#37734672)

The wiretapping law is meant to cover interception by a third party of communications between two other non-consenting parties.

No, it is often intended to cover cases where any of the parties are non-consenting.

Figures they went to that Bilderberger meeting.... (2)

sgt_doom (655561) | more than 2 years ago | (#37734322)

....attended by the Usual Suspects, David Rockefeller, Henry Kissinger, top banksters on the planet (and the hedge funds which are owned by the banksters which own the banksters --- interlocking stock ownership up the wazoo!). Once Marky Zuckerberg (Facebook) and Bezos begin attending with the rest of the global banking cartel -- it figures that they are the forward army of societal information systems engineering --- and I'm being quite serious.

http://disinfo.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/Screen-shot-2010-11-17-at-10.30.55-AM.png [amazonaws.com]

http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6231/6238828974_5389387b60_b.jpg [flickr.com]

No one has pointed out the most shocking fact... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37734342)

....which is that Mississippi apparently has the internet now.

Re:No one has pointed out the most shocking fact.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37734486)

Well, this is the northern Mississippi federal court which is quite famous for excessive amounts awarded in lawsuits. They're pretty well known in the legal community, even worse than eastern Texas. A lot of this is due to everybody in the area know each other or being related to the person's neighbor or the like. The area is also well known for the amount of insurance fraud and the like. Basically, this is the beginning of someone(s) collecting a nice payday.

Re:No one has pointed out the most shocking fact.. (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 2 years ago | (#37734550)

the south is coming around, I saw a "Books-a-Million" in Alabama!

Facebook kind of deserves the scrutiny... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37734524)

The other day, I noticed Yelp managed to show me my facebook friends using Yelp... the only problem is, I deactivated my facebook nearly a year ago. Either yelp is storing my facebook friends in their database (violation of facebook's TOS?) or the facebook API doesn't care if an account is deactivated if there is a (old) session. Either way it feels nefarious... I guess I'll need to reactivate it and perform a manual seppukoo.

I'm glad Facebook comes under such severe scrutiny, because they have done a lot of this to themselves. Doing /good/ business sometimes means NOT doing what everyone else is doing and actually being a leader and innovator (two things I personally think facebook lacks).

I will admit however many of these concerns would be out the door if people didn't post personal information or 'secrets' to the internet to begin with. The internet is general is only as secure as one makes it.

Is there some way... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37734530)

...to use Facebook's user tracking against them? Send them incorrect data or something?

Wouldn't this apply to other tracking mechanisms? (1)

Virtucon (127420) | more than 2 years ago | (#37734584)

I guess unless you explicitly "opt-in" this could be extended to all tracking mechanisms such as fine grained or coarse grained GPS tracking, Ad-Aware cookies which track which websites you've been on etc. It seems Facebook is being singled out here but I can't honestly think that they're doing much of anything different than what has been happening on the web for years.

Disabling Cookies has been mentioned here so I guess like disabling Adoobe Flash Cookies (Storage) and disabling cookies in General, you'll solve some of the tracking issues.

Now if Amazon would stop inferring that because one time I bought a Kids PC Game they'd stop sending me Kids PC game announcements. I know, I can opt-out but it's still funny since I bought those games over 15 years ago yet they still hope that some day I'll buy another version of "putt putt."

End Result? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37734592)

1) Slap on the wrist for Facebook.
2) All TOS agreements are rewritten to require full permission given for unlimited* tracking.
3) Contract lawyers buy another yacht from the extra billing.

* unlimited in the traditional sense, not the unlimited** as seen in marketing material.

** unlimited up to [insert arbitrary amount here].

Like ... Oh .. WoW Man (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37734716)

So. These are the facts.

Obama and his gay and lesbian friends in Dept. of Defense, FBI, IRS, Dept. of State can deny the same when its gay and lesibians from Facebook to do something as dirty as they do.

WoW dude. LoL Obama and his gay and lesbian pals suck.

Ah hu huu hu ... Hrr hr hrrr hr.

So like Obama is a Faggot .. Ahh huuhaaa (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37734776)

Ahh ... ahhy ahhuu ah ahuuu ah hu huuu ... Hrr hrrrrr a hrr hr hrrrr a hrrr ahyrr hrr hrrrr.

Dude.

Yea. Like Obama is dooling over this while he sits on the roof of the White House and beats off.

Ah ahhuu haa haaa ha .... Hrrrrr hr hyr hinrrrr..

So, exactly like Google... But less so (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37734808)

Nearly every major site uses google-analytics, which informs google about every link you click on. You don't even have to have a google account, much less be signed in.

This case only affects pages which have the "Like this" facebook link on it, which is far less ubiquitous than google-analytics. We should really be focusing on stopping Google's practices right now.

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