Updated: Apr 13, 2020
Tech giants, Facebook and Google, are under heat again with accusations of them secretly tracking their users’ location despite having the tracking feature supposedly switched off.
Any person that’s had their location tracked without their consent are eligible to file these class action lawsuits. That’s a lot of users that can potentially file (approximately millions), the bill could cost the companies billions if the accusers were to win.
A former user of a Facebook app, Brett Heeger, sued the firm with a class action suit in Carolina District Court because apparently, Facebook still continues to hoard users’ location information in their mobile phones despite the feature having been turned off.
This also accuses Facebook of the supposed violation of its Consent Decree with the Federal Trade Commission in 2011 where Facebook promised to ensure its users’ privacy without resorting to manipulative tactics or misinterpret it in any form.
Google is facing the similar controversy and lawsuit filed by Leslie Lee, Stacy Smedley and Frederick Davis who both claimed the same issue of secretly tracking its users’ location despite the feature having been switched off. They claimed that rather than stopping the collection after turning it off, Google simply stopped displaying it visually to the users’ timeline citing their press coverage earlier this year.
To really turn off the tracking of location, users also had to disable the “Web and App Activity” setting.
Both of these lawsuits filed against the two tech giants are due to the violation of the laws in California which includes the state’s Constitutional Right of Privacy, Consumers Legal Remedies Act, and Invasion of Privacy Act.
Facebook’s lawsuit stated that the social media giant has violated the Federal Stored Communications Act, slapping them with a $1,000 per violation fine under the legislation alone while Google’s suit says that the company has violated California’s Unfair Competition Law and Colorado’s Consumer Protection Act.
Because the US doesn’t have a Federal Privacy Law as of the moment, prosecutors couldn't sue Facebook. With that in mind, perhaps the US should already have their own version of GDPR to protect its citizens’ privacy to prevent personal data to be used as “weapons”. As they operate in Europe and they are in the scope of the regulation it would be interesting to see if the ICO act on the findings.
Nevertheless, both Google and Facebook executives are all on-board for the establishment of a Federal Privacy Law in the coming years.