What has been buzzing lately outside of the handset industry? Well, the social networking websites have had numerous disputes regarding updates on the interface, and even privacy issues.
Facebook has been regarded as the most visited website in terms of traffic, topping Google as well. However, Facebook is not all fun and games when it comes down to privacy. As of September 30, 2011, six users of Facebook sued the company on the grounds of tracking cookies which were seen as privacy issues. The six users that filed a lawsuit at the California district court are residents of Hawaii, New Jersey, Virginia, and Illinois.
Internet cookies are bits of data that are stored on a computer that is used for integrating aspects such as browser speed and ease of use. Cookies are normally used to aid in a user’s browsing experience, but sometimes it can save credentials that can lead to identity theft and online predators. The people who sued Facebook last Saturday were not suing because of any normal cookie that most websites offer, but they were suing because Facebook has special cookies that track a user’s activity after they are logged off. That’s right, after they are logged off. In response to such allegations, a spokesperson for Facebook replied, “We believe this complaint is without merit and we will fight it vigorously.”
Examples of some of these cookies are the “datr” and the “lu” cookies. The “datr” cookie monitors a computer and prevents suspicious login attempts. The other cookie, “lu”, ensures that public computers are in good hands when it comes to login credentials of Facebook users who access such computers. Users who use Facebook agree to cookies such as these when completing the registration process; the terms are in the Terms of Services, or TOS.
Although these cookies may be troublesome, users have several options to bypass such cookies; deleting cookies upon exit of browser, private browsing sessions, creating rules to avoid saving cookies from websites such as Facebook, and the list goes on. The people who sued Facebook don’t see those tactics as initiatives on their side and expect Facebook to deal with the issue. Upon hearing the news, Facebook took action and did in fact delete some of their cookies which violated some of their users’ concern.
Today, according to Nik Cubrilovic, the “datr” cookie, for example, is back and it means that Facebook wants once again to track some actions. Their “datr” cookie explanation is the following:
We set the ‘datr’ cookie when a web browser accesses facebook.com (except social plugin iframes), and the cookie helps us identify suspicious login activity and keep users safe. For instance, we use it to flag questionable activity like failed login attempts and attempts to create multiple spam accounts.
For Facebook and other companies, these sorts of lawsuits are not a rare thing these days. Companies such as Apple, Sony, Microsoft, Google, and many other have suffered similar conflicts.
This is just the beginning of many tensions between users and domains. When websites have avid users who utilize their website, products, or services on a daily basis, privacy frequently becomes an issue. What will be the outcome of this Facebook cookie issue? Will it be another loss to the consumers, like the plaintiffs in the recent Apple court case?