A California court case alleges that Facebook used their apps to spy on users, gathering information about users, as well as their friends, including some who had not signed up to use the social networking site. The information they allegedly gathered includes, text messages, location tracking, as well as photos on their phones.
Despite Facebook claiming that the claims are false, former startup Six4Three is continuing with their lawsuit against the social network giant, and have made these allegations in official court documents filed at the superior court in San Mateo.
Facebook has long found themselves in the forefront of surveillance allegations. The first major allegation came in the wake of information leaked by CIA employee turned whistle-blower Edward Snowden. Government documents described Facebook as corporate partners in the National Security Agency’s PRISM program, which conducted massive surveillance operations of American citizens.
Mark Zuckerberg personally denied knowledge of the government’s PRISM program.
In the case of the California lawsuit, Facebook is actively fighting the allegations, recently making an anti-SLAPP motion, which is a legal maneuver designed to throw out lawsuits filed for the purpose of limiting free speech. If they are successful, the lawsuit will be thrown out. Six4Three is actively opposing the motion.
A number of high-level communications are being reviewed as a part of the case, and have the possibility of becoming publicly available. Facebook’s legal team is claiming those communications are private business matters in order to attempt to keep them private.
The specific allegations in the case have to do with the developer’s failure of an app they created called Pikinis, which allowed users to zero in on photos of their friends in bikinis and other swimwear.
They claim that Facebook mislead investors by misrepresenting data controls and privacy settings. In a January filing, the company alleges that Facebook tracked users extensively, oftentimes without their consent.
Data made available to the company appears to have varied based on the type of phone that was being used. On Android phones, they were able to access metadata and content found in text messages, and on iPhone, they were able to access most photos, including those not posted on Facebook.
Another allegation made is that the company was able to remotely activate Bluetooth, which allowed them to pinpoint the users location, with or without their consent.
A court filing claims that “Facebook used this data to give certain Facebook products and features an unfair competitive advantage over other social applications on Facebook Platform.”
Facebook in the past has been forced to admit collecting certain data from users, like call and text message data, but claimed that they only did so with express consent. However, it has been reported that they collected some of that data from users without first getting consent.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has railed against surveillance in the past, and fought back against similar accusations to the ones made in this lawsuit. This lawsuit has the possibility to prove his claims incorrect.
Big League Politics will keep you updated on any developments to this story.
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