US judge lets Facebook privacy class action proceed, calls company’s views ‘so wrong’

The Facebook application is seen on a phone screen August 3, 2017. (REUTERS/Thomas White/File Photo)
Updated 10 September 2019
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US judge lets Facebook privacy class action proceed, calls company’s views ‘so wrong’

SAN FRANCISCO: A US federal judge on Monday ordered Facebook Inc. to face most of a nationwide lawsuit seeking damages for letting third parties such as Cambridge Analytica access users’ private data, calling the social media company’s views on privacy “so wrong.”
While dismissing some claims, US District Judge Vince Chhabria in San Francisco said users could try to hold Facebook liable under various federal and state laws for letting app developers and business partners harvest their personal data without their consent on a “widespread” basis.
He rejected Facebook’s arguments that users suffered no “tangible” harm and had no legitimate privacy interest in information they shared with friends on social media.
“Facebook’s motion to dismiss is littered with assumptions about the degree to which social media users can reasonably expect their personal information and communications to remain private,” Chhabria wrote. “Facebook’s view is so wrong.”
A Facebook spokeswoman said the company considered protecting people’s information and privacy “extremely important,” but believed its practices were consistent with its disclosures and “do not support any legal claims.”
Lesley Weaver and Derek Loeser, two of the plaintiffs’ lawyers, said in a joint statement that they were pleased with the decision, and “especially gratified that the court is respecting Facebook users’ right to privacy.”
The litigation followed a series of data privacy issues involving Menlo Park, California-based Facebook.
These included the 2015 breach that allowed Cambridge Analytica, a British political consulting firm, to access data for an estimated 87 million Facebook users. That breach was not revealed until March 2018.
In their 414-page complaint, users said Facebook misled them into thinking they could keep control over personal data, when in fact it let thousands of “preferred” outsiders such as Airbnb, Lyft and Netflix gain access.
Chhabria faulted Facebook for treating privacy as an “all-or-nothing” proposition, where users would forfeit their privacy by sharing data even in a “limited” fashion.
He said Facebook had taken different positions elsewhere, including in a California case where it likened information kept on social media accounts to information stored on smartphones, where privacy concerns might be greater.
That position is “closer to the truth than the company’s assertions in this case,” Chhabria wrote. “Sharing information with your social media friends does not categorically eliminate your privacy interest in that information.”
The litigation covers Facebook users in the United States and United Kingdom whose information was shared with third parties without their consent since 2007.
The case is In re Facebook Inc. Consumer Privacy User Profile Litigation, US District Court, Northern District of California, No. 18-md-02843. 


Vietnam’s social media crowd swells with new entrant to take on Facebook, Google

Updated 17 September 2019
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Vietnam’s social media crowd swells with new entrant to take on Facebook, Google

  • Lotus received 700 billion dong ($30.14 million) in funding from tech corporation VCCorp
  • ‘Lotus was born not to compete with Facebook or any other social networks’

HANOI: A new social network has entered the already crowded field in Vietnam as the communist party squeezes US tech giants Facebook and Google with a new cybersecurity law.
Lotus, a social network that allows users to create content and share posts to a home page, had received 700 billion dong ($30.14 million) in funding from tech corporation VCCorp. and hoped to raise another 500 billion dong, company General Director Nguyen The Tan said at the launch ceremony.
“Lotus was born not to compete with Facebook or any other social networks,” Tan said late on Monday. “We will focus on content and content creation.”
Information Minister Nguyen Manh Hung, who was at the launch, has urged Vietnamese companies to create viable domestic alternatives to foreign social media platforms which are more difficult for the government to control.
Last month, a Facebook-style app, Gapo, also made its debut. Older domestic social platforms such as VietnamTa and Hahalolo have struggled to build large user bases.
Hung said he hoped that eventually the number of Vietnamese people using domestic social networks would be as high as the number using foreign platforms.
There were 58 million Facebook users and 62 million Google accounts in Vietnam as of August, government data showed. There are no comparable figures for domestic networks.
Despite economic liberalization and increasing openness to social change since the 1990s, the ruling Communist Party retains tight media censorship and does not tolerate dissent.
Several activists and dissidents have been arrested or jailed for posting online content considered to be “anti-state.”
Vietnam has tightened Internet rules over the past few years, culminating in a cybersecurity law which came into effect in January requiring foreign companies like Facebook to set up local offices and store data in the country.