The Supreme Court on Monday rejected an appeal from Facebook to intervene in a $15 billion class-action lawsuit charging the company with illegally tracking the online activities of its users even when they are not on the platform. The social media giant is accused of violating a federal law known as the Wiretap Act because the company secretly tracked users on websites that use Facebook tools, such as the “like” button.

The nationwide class-action suit was filed by four individuals in a California federal court, asking for $15 billion in damages for Facebook’s actions between April 2010 and September 2011. The Supreme Court’s denial of Facebook’s appeal means the lawsuit can now continue.

“Facebook’s user profiles would allegedly reveal an individual’s likes, dislikes, interests and habits over a significant amount of time, without affording users a meaningful opportunity to control or prevent the unauthorized exploration of their private lives,” the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in a ruling to revive the suit in 2020.

Facebook’s online tracking without consent stopped after it was exposed in 2011, court documents said.

Facebook said it has maintained privacy standards and should not be penalized for everyday online communications that users partake in. The case is focused on Facebook’s use of “plug-in” tools, such as the “share button” that many third-party websites take advantage of but that also allow Facebook to track the online activity of users. The plaintiffs accuse Facebook of collecting this data unjustly and selling it to advertisers for profit.

Facebook claims the user data was not collected in an unfair fashion and that it is used to show users better content and more targeted ads on its platform.

“Facebook was not an uninvited interloper to a communication between two separate parties; it was a direct participant,” the tech giant said in a legal filing.

Author: Nihal Krishan, Technology Reporter

Source: Washington Examiner : Supreme Court rejects Facebook appeal in secret user tracking lawsuit