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Milberg Lawsuit Accuses Meta of Tracking Users Without Consent

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October 26, 2022

by Brian Eckert

Social media giant Meta circumvents the privacy settings of its users by directing them to Meta’s in-app browser, instead of their default browser, and tracking their online activity, alleges a Milberg class action lawsuit.

Anyone with an active Facebook account may be eligible to join this lawsuit. You do not have to hire a lawyer or pay out-of-pocket legal fees to participate. Milberg is representing all class members on a contingency-fee basis. It costs you nothing to join and if the case results in a settlement or verdict, you could receive a share of the damages.

Privacy Encroaching on Meta’s Surveillance Business Model

Meta Platforms Inc., formerly Facebook, is no longer one of the world’s top-10 most valuable companies. Meta has lost around $500 billion in market cap from its peak, reports Bloomberg, citing a “dismal earnings report” and stagnating user growth.

Meta’s business model is reliant on advertising revenue earned from the massive amounts of personal information it collects from users. This information is highly valuable to online advertisers that use the data for targeted advertising. In Q4 2021, Meta earned revenues of $33.67 billion, 97% of which was derived from advertising.

Meta does not inform Facebook users that clicking on links to third-party websites from within Facebook will automatically send them to Facebook’s in-app browser, or that Meta will monitor their activity and communications while on those sites.

Meta obtains users’ personal information using tracking codes called “cookies” that follow users across sites and platforms owned by other companies. But the so-called “surveillance advertising industry” is nearing an end as people demand greater online privacy and control over their personal data.

For example, when Apple changed how their mobile operating system, iOS, handles users’ privacy preferences, allowing them to opt out of tracking by any app on their iPhones and other iOS devices, 96% of U.S. users opted out. Google Chrome, the world’s leading web browser, has also announced plans to phase out third-party cookies, and Firefox has introduced what it calls “Total Cookie Protection.”

This is good news for users, but bad news for advertisers. According to Meta, in the first year after Apple allowed tracking opt-outs, the company lost $10,000,000,000.

Meta Sidesteps Privacy Preferences With JavaScript, In-App Browsers

Meta has a spotty track record of honoring user privacy. In 2019, it was hit with a record-breaking $5 billion FTC penalty for “deceiving users about their ability to control the privacy of their personal information.” Earlier this year, it agreed to pay $90 million to settle a data privacy lawsuit over its use of tracking cookies.

Once again, Meta privacy practices are facing legal scrutiny, this time for allegedly tracking users without their knowledge or consent. This illegal tracking is done with JavaScript that Meta injects into third-party websites in its in-app browsers.

Users freely engage with these sites, sharing all manner of personal facts and preferences, without having reason to know they are being tracked or are actually still within Facebook’s app.

As Milberg’s lawsuit explains, when a Meta user visits the Facebook app and clicks on an external website, such as from a wall post on a friend’s profile, Meta does not open the link in the user’s built-in web browser (e.g., the iOS Safari app, which by default blocks third party cookies). Instead, Meta automatically reroutes the user to its own in-app web browser, where third-party websites are rendered inside the Facebook app. Meta injects JavaScript, that, according to Milberg’s lawsuit, allows Meta to track users across third-party sites, even when their default browser is configured to prevent such tracking practices.

“Meta does not inform Facebook users that clicking on links to third-party websites from within Facebook will automatically send them to Facebook’s in-app browser, as opposed to the user’s default web browser, or that Meta will monitor their activity and communications while on those sites,” states Milberg’s complaint.

“As a result, users freely engage with these sites, sharing all manner of personal facts and preferences, without having reason to know they are being tracked or are actually still within Facebook’s app.”

Lawsuit Seeks Representation for Three Meta User Classes

Milberg class action attorneys allege that Meta’s practices violate several state and federal laws, including the U.S. Wiretap Act and the California Invasion of Privacy Act. They seek compensatory damages, restitution, and injunctive relief on behalf of the following classes:

  • A national class of U.S. persons with active Facebook accounts who visited a third-party external website on Facebook’s in-app browser during the period that Meta began implementing the practices described above (“the Class Period);
  • A California subclass of people with active Facebook accounts who visited a third-party external website on Facebook’s in-app browser during the Class Period; and
  • An iOS subclass of people with active Facebook accounts who, using an iOS device, visited a third-party external website on Facebook’s in-app browser during the Class Period.

Milberg is dedicated to safeguarding privacy rights. Our data breach and privacy lawyers continually file lawsuits that seek to improve data security practices, protect consumers’ personal data, and challenge Big Tech power.

If you believe your privacy rights were violated, contact Milberg to discuss how you can fight back.

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