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You are here: Home / Data Security / Will Facebook's Woes Ever End?
Another Lawsuit: Will Facebook's Woes Ever End?
Another Lawsuit: Will Facebook's Woes Ever End?
By Seung Lee Like this on Facebook Tweet this Link thison Linkedin Link this on Google Plus
It's been more than 10 days since the Cambridge Analytica scandal exploded, and Facebook is still stuck in its worst nightmare.

The latest blow: The Menlo Park-based social media giant is being sued by three users who downloaded the social media platform's messaging app Messenger on their Android phones.

The three users -- one of whom lives in California -- filed their suit Tuesday at the Northern District of California in San Francisco, alleging Facebook improperly collected their phone call and text message logs via Messenger and monetized the data for advertising purposes.

The lawsuit comes on the heels of Facebook admitting on Monday that it collected phone call and text message history -- but only at the permission of the user. Facebook said it never sold this data nor collected the content of text messages or calls.

"You may have seen some recent reports that Facebook has been logging people's call and SMS (text) history without their permission," said Facebook in a "Fact Check" blog post. "This is not the case."

The users write in their complaint that Facebook exploited a vulnerability found in the Facebook Messenger and Facebook Lite apps for Android. The apps included permission to gain access to the phone owner's contact list but they used it to collect logs of phone calls and text messages, according to the complaint.

Before the vulnerability was patched in October 2017, it was collecting phone call and text message metadata as early as 2012, when the Android "Jelly Bean" OS version was introduced, according to the technology news outlet Ars Technica.

The vulnerability went viral last week when a Twitter user, Dylan McKay, tweeted about his findings after downloading a data archive from Facebook. McKay said he found his entire call history with his partner's mother in his Facebook data.

The plaintiffs, who are seeking class action status, listed eight state and federal violations, including intrusion upon seclusion and trespass to personal property. Represented by the Walnut Creek-based law firm Bursor & Fisher, the plaintiffs also cited the "California Constitutional Right to Privacy", an added amendment to the state's constitution in 1974 that expressly cited the ability to "pursuing and obtaining safety, happiness, and privacy" as inalienable rights for Californians.

Facebook has weathered a barrage of lawsuits since the news that a British political data firm, Cambridge Analytica, improperly collected data of 50 million Americans and used it for political means, such as Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign. Christopher Wylie, a former Cambridge Analytica employee who blew the whistle on his former employer, told a British parliamentary panel he "absolutely" believed that the Brexit campaign also mined Facebook data and used it to successfully win the 2016 referendum for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg apologized for the "breach of trust" caused by Cambridge Analytica. But Facebook received numerous lawsuits as of Wednesday. Among them are some from several shareholders, including one based in San Francisco; Facebook users, including one woman asking $500 million in damages; and Illinois' Cook County government for allegedly violating its state's fraud law.

Last week, Facebook lost $58 billion its own market capitalization. As of Wednesday afternoon's trading, Facebook's share price picked up by less than 1 percent at $153.45. On March 16, before Wylie's whistleblowing was made public, Facebook's share price was at $185.09.

Amid the storm, Facebook decided to delay the introduction of its new home speaker at this year's F8 developer's conference in San Jose in May, according to Bloomberg. On Wednesday, the company introduced new features and privacy shortcuts to its site to give users more visibility and control over how their information is shared with friends, third parties and advertisers and the ability to download and delete Facebook data.

"Last week showed how much more work we need to do to enforce our policies and help people understand how Facebook works and the choices they have over their data," said Facebook's chief privacy officer and deputy general counsel Ashlie Beringer in a company blog post. "Most of these updates have been in the works for some time, but the events of the past several days underscore their importance."

Facebook is also under tight scrutiny from the federal government. Zuckerberg accepted an invitation to testify before the House energy and commerce committee later this spring on Tuesday, according to CNN. Zuckerberg however declined to testify in front of the United Kingdom's Parliament. The Federal Trade Commission also launched a separate investigation into Facebook's data practices on Monday.

Other Silicon Valley executives piled on Facebook, including Apple CEO Tim Cook in a televised interview Wednesday. When asked what he would do if he was in Zuckerberg's shoes, Cook said he "I wouldn't be in this situation."

© 2018 San Jose Mercury News under contract with NewsEdge/Acquire Media. All rights reserved.

Image credit: Facebook; iStock/Artist's concept.

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