Below is the first part of an article by John M. Browning from natlawreview.com. It reads…
Farmville is a game that celebrates the digital harvest: players earn Farm Coins by diligently and systematically harvesting their virtual crops. Yet a different kind of digital harvest – the harvest of user data – was at the heart of two unsuccessful class action suits users filed against Facebook and Zynga. While the Ninth Circuit ultimately dismissed both claims with prejudice in a consolidated opinion, this case is another important battle in an ongoing war between consumers and social media sites over user data.
Marking a victory for Facebook and Zynga, the Ninth Circuit held that sharing information about users’ identity and the last Facebook page they visited with third party advertisers did not violate the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (“ECPA”). But consumer unrest over data use remains. A Canadian woman recently brought a class action suit against Facebook in Ontario for profiting from users’ private messages. In the United States, the FTC recently signaled its intent to police Facebook’s use of data in light of a proposed merger with WhatsApp.
This battle, recently waged on the fields of FarmVille, may influence the struggles to come.
Class plaintiffs alleged that Facebook and Zynga violated two provisions of the ECPA by divulging the “contents” of their communications to third party advertisers without permission. Indeed, the federal statute prohibits knowing or intentional disclosure of “the contents of any communication” to unauthorized third parties.