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Facebook issues and privacy

October 10, 2011 - Frank Robinson
I guess this is another reason I don't have a Facebook account or Twitter.

I ran across this story recently about how a Facebook user is going to court claiming his privacy has been violated. The lawsuit claims that through cookies and other means of tracking, his activities can be traced even after he logs off Facebook. The guy's name is John Graham and he is a 42-year-old lawyer from Kansas. He is seeking class-action status.

I'm not sure how this lawsuit will end, but it reinforces the thinking, at least on my part, that anything that goes on the internet eventually can be viewed by the public or the administrator of a program. I don't think having a Facebook account is worth that hassle.

I don't have anything to hide. I do use the internet all the time and find it to be a useful tool. Yes, I feel like I'm on the outside looking in when I am having conversations with some of friends, co-workers and family members. That's OK and I'm fine with that.

Below is part of the AP story I am writing about. It moved Oct. 6.

Kansas man sues Facebook WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Facebook user in Kansas has filed a federal lawsuit against the social networking giant, claiming it violated wiretap laws with a tracking cookie that records web browsing history after logging off of Facebook. John Graham, a 42-year-old Leawood lawyer, is the named plaintiff in the lawsuit filed on Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Kansas. His suit seeks class action status for the 150 million users of Facebook in the United States. Graham referred all comment to his attorneys, who declined to comment on the filing. Experts say the Kansas litigation faces an uphill battle since courts in the past have tossed out similar cases against Facebook and others filed under wiretap law, finding such computer cookies are not wiretaps. In those cases that do end up being litigated the plaintiffs typically lose because they cannot prove any harm. Andrew Noyes, a spokesman for Facebook, said the firm was not commenting on the lawsuit at this time. But when the controversy over the cookies was initially raised, the company issued a statement saying there was no security or privacy breach and Facebook did not store or use any information it should not have. Like every site on the Internet that personalizes content and tries to provide security for its user, Facebook places cookies on the computer of the user, it said. "Three of these cookies on some users' computers inadvertently included unique identifiers when the user had logged out of Facebook," according to the statement. "However, we did not store these identifiers for logged out users. Therefore, we could not have used this information for tracking or any other purpose." Graham asks the federal court to decide whether the interception was intentional, the extent of communications intercepted and stored, and whether the court should prohibit Facebook from intercepting such communications when a user is not logged in. "The case raises important questions that the court should consider," said David Jacobs, a consumer advocacy fellow for the Electronic Privacy Information Center. The lawsuit filed in Kansas is similar to another case filed last week in California arising out of the revelation that Facebook placed cookies on the browsers of its users that traced their Internet activity even when they were not logged into Facebook, Jacobs said. Both lawsuits seek to certify as its class the 150 million users of Facebook in the United States. Both were filed under a provision of the federal Wiretap Act which prohibits interception of wire, oral or electronic communications, Jacobs wrote in an email. The Kansas lawsuit differs in that it also alleges several state law claims, including violation of the Kansas Consumer Protection Act. Nine privacy groups — including the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the American Civil Liberties Union — sent a joint letter last week to the Federal Trade Commission saying it should investigate the ways Facebook collects data about users" online activity after recent changes to its site. (Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.)


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