Facebook and The 'Right To Privacy"

Attorney Mike Bottaro reviews the latest allegations against Facebook relating to its privacy practices.

Did you know that Facebook has tracked users' internet activities even after users logged off Facebook? Last month, an Australian blogger broke this news and it has since resonated across the internet, and as described below, into the courtroom.   

This is the latest in the ongoing debate over Facebook's philosophy that there is essentially no right to privacy, at least not once a user signs up for Facebook. As one social media site put it, it is as if Facebook is attempting to "murder" whatever vestige of "privacy" remains.

Is Facebook regulated? Yes. The Federal Trade Commission has been investigating Facebook for deceptve trade practices over its past privacy practices and the two sides are reportedly close to a settlement. 

But what is this "right to privacy" anyway? The subject has taken up volumes of law review articles.  Typically when we talk about "rights," we start with our Constitution. Would it surprise you to know that nowhere in our Constitution or Bill of Rights will you find the phrase "the right to privacy"? The Bill of Rights certainly alludes to privacy in other areas and the US Supreme Court has since rnarrowly recognized such a right as summarized here.

Of course, the Constitution only applies to citizens' rights vis a vis our government, not vis a vis companies or fellow citizens. So then, in discussing an individual's rights against companies, as a lawyer, we need to look to other laws or court decisions. 

As an example, in the most recent revelation about Facebook, at least one consumer has sued Facebook pursuant to federal wiretapping laws that do apply to companies. The article is here. Facebook consistently contends that its users freely choose to share such information. As an avid Facebook user myself (click "like" here and I'll donate $1 to MADD), that argument makes a lot of sense...most of the time. But what about this latest story, where users' internet activity was tracked by facebook when they were not even logged onto Facebook?  It will be interesting to see how this one plays out...

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Mike Bottaro February 18, 2012 at 01:08 PM
Turns out a Stanford researcher has noticed that Google has also been ignoring privacy settings on our IPhones: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204880404577225380456599176.html


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