Despite iOS Privacy Restrictions, Meta Still Tracks Users Through In-App Web Browsers Without Consent, Case Alleges
Mitchell v. Meta Platforms, Inc.
Filed: September 15, 2022 ◆§ 4:22-cv-05267
According to the 21-page lawsuit, Apple cut off Meta’s “primary stream of revenue” when its iOS 14 update required the social media giant to obtain users’ informed consent before tracking their internet activity on apps and third-party websites. Per the complaint, Meta’s business model depends on its ability to collect user information. The company’s “ever evolving” tactics to accomplish this, the filing relays, are “always aimed at data mining, and its use of plug-ins, cookies, Facebook Beacon, the Facebook Like Button, Facebook Pixel, and related tools have led to dozens of private lawsuits and federal inquires.”
The filing says that Meta automatically directs a user to the in-app browser it monitors, rather than their default browser, when they click on a link to an external website, e.g. from a friend’s Facebook post or Instagram profile.
“Meta does not tell its users this is happening or explain that they are being tracked,” the suit reads.
The lawsuit alleges Meta’s “undisclosed tracking of citizens’ browsing activity and communications” is a violation of federal and state wiretap laws and has allowed the company to “boost its advertising revenue.”
According to the complaint, a report by data privacy researcher and former Google engineer Felix Krause revealed that Meta had been “injecting” code into third-party sites, thereby allowing the platform to track users and gather data that would otherwise be unavailable to it.
“For example, if a user accessed the same third-party website from their own web browser, such as the Safari app, Meta would not be able to track and intercept the users’ communications in that website.”
The lawsuit looks to cover all persons in the United States with an active Facebook account who visited a third-party external website on Facebook’s in-app browser between the date Meta began implementing the user-tracking practices alleged in the complaint and the date judgment is entered in the matter.
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