Facebook Sued for Tracking Users After Log-Off; Class-Action Status Sought

Facebook Inc., the world’s most popular social-networking service, was accused by users of the site in a class-action lawsuit of secretly tracking their Web activity after they log off.

The company assures users that “cookie” files installed on their computers to identify them and track their interactions with Facebook applications and websites while they are logged on are removed when they log off, according to a complaint in federal court in San Jose, California. Facebook admitted on Sept. 26 that the cookies track users’ Internet activity after they log off, according to yesterday’s complaint.

“This admission came only after an Australian technology blogger exposed Facebook’s practice of monitoring members who have logged out, although he brought the problems to the defendant’s attention a year ago,” according to the complaint.

On Sept. 29, 10 public-interest groups asked the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to investigate Palo Alto, California- based Facebook’s tracking of Internet users after they log off. The Electronic Privacy Information Center and nine other groups urged the FTC to examine whether Facebook’s new Ticker and Timeline features increase privacy risks for users by combining biographical information in an easily accessible format.

The lawsuit filed by Perrin Aikens Davis of Illinois seeks class, or group, status on behalf of other Facebook users living in the U.S. Davis seeks unspecified damages and a court order blocking the tracking based on alleged violations of federal laws, including restrictions on wiretapping, as well as computer fraud and abuse statutes.

“We believe this complaint is without merit and we will fight it vigorously,” Andrew Noyes, a spokesman Facebook, said in an e-mailed statement.

David Straite, a lawyer for Davis, said “our goal is to seek redress for the wrongs they have committed and to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”

The case is Davis v. Facebook, 11-4834, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).

To contact the reporters on this story: Joel Rosenblatt in San Francisco at jrosenblatt@bloomberg.net; Sara Forden in Washington at sforden@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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