My firm receives many calls from new or existing businesses with Internet privacy questions. Many calls come from e-commerce businesses, start ups, or businesses that want to utilize information gathered from users accessing their Web sites. Some business owners have ideas or concepts that test the limit on use of user profiles, preferences, and content. The question becomes, just what are the limits for user expectations on privacy?
Take Facebook for example. Facebook has a reported 400 million users. Facebook is constantly in the headlines over its privacy policies and security settings related to its user’s profile information. Whether it is a class action lawsuit in California or the recent $10 million settlement for its Beacon program, you can count on Facebook to have dealt with any number of privacy issues in litigation.
Recently, another lawsuit has been filed over Facebook’s "opt out" setting concerning the instant personalization feature. Wendy Davis on Online Media Daily reported on the story. This feature automatically shares user information with three outside companies, Microsoft Docs, Pandora, and Yelp. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Rhode Island for violation of the Stored Communications Act (Download here). By my count, Facebook has been sued at least 30 times in Federal court in recent years.
In the Internet privacy area, Facebook tests the outer limits of what is acceptable for privacy rights and user expectations. When Facebook makes a change or tries something new, everyone pays attention. As a result, Facebook’s privacy policies get vetted by 400 million users, numerous industry and trade groups, leading technology blogs like TechCrunch, and even the federal government.
If you want to know what crosses the line when it comes to privacy on the Internet, just watch Facebook.