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Facebook, Twitter, 16 Others Sued for Alleged Privacy Issues

The ease at which companies gather consumer data is coming under increasingly hostile examination, and the latest salvo in the war over consumer privacy comes in the form of a lawsuit filed by 13 people in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas (5th District) which alleges that 18 companies have distributed privacy-violating applications to their customers. The suit aims to compel each company to destroy all collected data, and would impose a permanent injunction against the future collection of such information. The lawsuit names Path, Twitter, Apple, Facebook, Beluga, Yelp, Burbn, Instagram, Foursquare Labs, Gowalla (now out of business), Foodspotting, Hipster, LinkedIn, Rovio Mobile, ZeptoLab, Chillingo, Electronics Arts, and Kik Interactive.

Many of these companies have separately come under fire for their data collection practices, though this is the first time they have all been sued as a group. For example, Electronic Arts has also been criticized for their Origin online service, though that has now been eclipsed by outrage over the end of Mass Effect 3; thankfully, that ending only asks for DLC, and doesn't steal player data. Apple has come under increasing scrutiny for everything from their workplace practices to internal corporate culture, but in February, Democratic Congressional Representative Henry Waxman demanded that Apple provide information on how its app store vendors collect data. And Facebook became the poster child for quasi-ethical data collection practices in 2011. In December, Mark Zuckerberg issued something that resembles a public apology after the social media giant reached an agreement with the FCC that, among other things, requires them to ask customers to opt-in instead of opt-out of data collection.

However, the suit seems directly inspired by the recent exposure of San Francisco-based social network Path's practice of uploading their users entire iPhone directories without permission.  That practice was revealed by a programmer in Singapore, but gained nationwide notoriety thanks to a recent New York Times piece tearing such practices apart that specifically singled Path out. In the wake of the PR nightmare that ensued, Path issued a public apology for the practice and vowed to stop. The New York Times article is cited several times in the filing.

The full filing can be reviewed here.

  • supall
    Those people should set up donation site to fund the lawsuit. Get some real lawyers in there that can make a case.
    Reply
  • Nakal
    I am surprised that Google is not on that list.
    Reply
  • gilbertfh
    Data collection is nothing new. If you truly believe that you can go to a free website (FB, Twitter, etc) and not have data collected then you need to wake up. Websites cannot operate if they do not bring in some form of income. Generally this is in the form of data collection and selling of data. Even if you do pay for your online support/services the companies will most likely collect data so they can more effectively tailor their products to the subscribers. I know people want their privacy but there is no way you can attain that especially if you use the internet. Traffic cameras, ATM's, websites, automatic door openers etc etc all collect data on you whether you know it or like it.
    Reply
  • cookoy
    Little chance of winning this one. And why only this specific list of companies when other big companies are doing the same thing - collecting data from their subscribers to access some specific services being offered.
    Reply
  • alidan
    oh yay, another comment where i will be downvoted.

    you don't like having data collected, dont use those services, and further more dont use the internet.

    i dont use origin from ea because of its spyware like practices, and because its not steam.
    i dont use facebook because i dont care about it, want to talk to people, use email

    but thats not what i hate about these people who "want their privacy"

    what i hate is how they are so up their own... well cant say next word... that they cant see that the internet isnt free, but some how to the end user it is free in many places.

    take something like an mmo for example. a single server (dont know how big the world servers are but server means world server in this context) holds 5000 people comfortably at most, and those people pay about 15$ a month coming to about 75000$

    yet look at places on the internet that get more traffic than an mmo could ever hope for, and they all are somehow free.

    they sell ad space (o god i saw an ad, world over... hate these people too) they sell infromation on their user base (im almost willing to bet money toms does, like selling the infromation on what articles are read the most and comments the most to get better demographics for ads) all to help fund the business.

    do i want privacy, yes.
    all i want is what i do online to not effect my real world life.
    i dont want to get real mail thats linked to the porn that i look at.
    i dont want real phone calls over something i worte online that triggered an automated call list.

    thats all i want.
    Reply
  • aftcomet
    alidanoh yay, another comment where i will be downvoted.you don't like having data collected, dont use those services
    I agree with you.

    The problem however lies in where the organization doesn't inform the user. Remember when Facebook changed it so it would allow them to own anything you uploaded without letting everyone know? Or how about what the article mentions about opting out instead of in? That's shady and that's what the problem is.

    When you have something going through your phone without your knowledge (because the damn thing didn't inform you) that's a major issue and needs to be addressed.
    Reply
  • eddieroolz
    Great, I hope this results in a real change with privacy.
    Reply
  • sykozis
    gilbertfhData collection is nothing new. If you truly believe that you can go to a free website (FB, Twitter, etc) and not have data collected then you need to wake up. Websites cannot operate if they do not bring in some form of income. Generally this is in the form of data collection and selling of data. Even if you do pay for your online support/services the companies will most likely collect data so they can more effectively tailor their products to the subscribers. I know people want their privacy but there is no way you can attain that especially if you use the internet. Traffic cameras, ATM's, websites, automatic door openers etc etc all collect data on you whether you know it or like it.You make some good points, but you seem to miss something. Collecting data is one thing, copying someone's private information such as their contact list, is a complete invasion of privacy. I don't care if a site wants to collect web browsing data. That's been happening for more than a decade. But, when an app goes so far as to copy your contact list, the company that produces said app needs to be subjected to a business ending lawsuit. Apps that collect personally identifiable information, or private information are classified as spyware. Companies that willfully produce and distribute spyware, should be shutdown.
    Reply
  • alidan
    aftcometI agree with you.The problem however lies in where the organization doesn't inform the user. Remember when Facebook changed it so it would allow them to own anything you uploaded without letting everyone know? Or how about what the article mentions about opting out instead of in? That's shady and that's what the problem is. When you have something going through your phone without your knowledge (because the damn thing didn't inform you) that's a major issue and needs to be addressed.
    as far as im concerned anything i post online, if it isnt watermarked, or otherwise copyrighted in the image, i assume someone will use it some way, and that its not private. i just assume that everything i do is being monitored 24/7, and that if i can be screwed over by a company i will.


    Reply