Facebook Must Face Class Action Over Unwanted Text Messages, Panel Says

A federal appeals court has revived a proposed class action lawsuit against Facebook Inc. brought on behalf of non-Facebook users who claim they’ve gotten unsolicited texts from the company in violation of a federal robocalling statute.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed a lower court decision that had tossed a lawsuit brought by Noah Duguid, a non-Facebook user who claimed the company violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) by mistakenly sending him security messages meant to alert users when their account had been accessed from an unrecognized device or browser. Duguid claimed that Facebook failed to respond to his multiple text and email requests to stop sending him the texts.

“The messages Duguid received were automated, unsolicited, and unwanted,” wrote Judge M. Margaret McKeown, adding that the messages fell outside an exemption to TCPA liability for emergency messages that has been outlined by the Federal Communications Commission. “Duguid did not have a Facebook account, so his account could not have faced a security issue, and Facebook’s messages fall outside even the broad construction the FCC has afforded the emergency exception,” McKeown wrote.

The court, however, joined with the Fourth Circuit in finding that an exemption for calls “made solely to collect a debt owed to or guaranteed by the United States” added to the TCPA by Congress in a 2015 amendment violated the First Amendment. But also like the Fourth Circuit, the court found that the federal debt collection exemption was severable from the TCPA, refusing a request from Facebook and its lawyers at Latham & Watkins to find the entire statute unconstitutional.

Facebook representatives didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday. The company and its lawyers have argued that the statute, which has statutory penalties of $500 per violation and was initially aimed at curbing unwanted calls from telemarketers, was never meant to put companies in Facebook’s position on the hook potentially for millions in liability.

Duguid’s lawyer, Sergei Lemberg of Wilton, Connecticut-based Lemberg Law, said that Facebook has indicated that there are a significant number of people who, like his client, received unwanted texts.

“What’s important is the message: Man versus machine. Man wins. Privacy matters,” Lemberg said. “I think Facebook for years and years was pretty cavalier, to say the least, about individuals’ privacy and this case is different from some of the stuff that’s out there publicly, but it’s cut from the same cloth.”

Lawyers from the U.S. Department of Justice intervened in the case to defend the constitutionality of the statute, but took no position on whether Facebook violated the TCPA. The Chamber of Commerce, represented by counsel from Jones Day, filed an amicus brief asking the Ninth Circuit to invalidate the restriction on using an automatic telephone dialing system to call cellphones.

via Law.com – Newswire https://www.law.com/

June 13, 2019 at 03:06PM

Facebook-executive swatting sends significant police response to his home

A Facebook executive was the target of a swatting hoax that resulted in armed police briefly detaining him and searching his home as they investigated a false report of an active shooting and hostage situation involving pipe bombs, officials with the Palo Alto, California, Police Department said.

The incident started a little after 9pm on Tuesday when someone using an untraceable number identified himself as a Facebook executive and reported he had shot his wife and taken his children hostage, department officials reported in a statement. The male caller went on to say he had deployed pipe bombs and planned to harm police if they came to the residence.

The call resulted in a “significant police response” that included trained crisis negotiators. They used a public address system to contact the people inside the home. Two residents came outside as police searched the residence. Police ultimately determined that there had been no shots had been fired, no pipe bombs had been deployed, and no children were in the house.

According to this report from The Palo Alto Daily Post, the Facebook executive was in charge of cybersecurity at the social media giant. The publication also said that the caller stayed on the phone with police as they responded and that the executive was briefly handcuffed as police searched his home.

So-called swatting incidents are often considered pranks in hacking circles. In fact, they are pernicious crimes that consume limited resources and have sometimes resulted in police officers shooting and killing targets.

As swatting crimes have grown more common, many police departments have become better trained in responding to them.

Facebook issued a statement that read: “We thank the city of Palo Alto for their swift and thoughtful response. They quickly identified this as a prank, and we are glad that our colleague and his family are safe.”

Facebook declined to identify the executive or to confirm he worked in cybersecurity.

via Ars Technica https://arstechnica.com

January 10, 2019 at 04:11PM

“He Disparaged the Police on Facebook. So They Arrested Him.”

WASHINGTON — Like lots of Americans, Robert Frese is not shy about expressing his views on the internet. Last year, in a comment on a newspaper’s Facebook page, he said a New Hampshire police officer who had given him a traffic citation was “a dirty cop.” The police chief, Mr. Frese added, was a coward who had covered up the matter.

The police officers might have looked the other way. They might have responded, explaining their positions and letting readers decide who was right. They might have filed a civil suit for libel, seeking money from Mr. Frese.

Instead, they did a fourth thing, one that seems at odds with the American commitment to free expression, particularly where criticism of government officials is concerned. They arrested Mr. Frese, saying he had committed criminal libel.

via https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/07/us/politics/criminal-libel-laws-lawsuit.html

ACLU fights government secrecy over thwarted wiretap of Facebook Messenger

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | NurPhoto )

Earlier this year, a federal judge in Fresno, California, denied prosecutors’ efforts to compel Facebook to help it wiretap Messenger voice calls. But the precise legal arguments that the government made, and that the judge ultimately rejected, are still sealed. On Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union formally asked the judge to unseal court dockets and related rulings associated with this ongoing case involving alleged MS-13 gang members. ACLU lawyers argue that such a little-charted area of the law must be made public so that tech companies and the public can fully know what’s going on.

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EPIC, Consumer Groups Urge FTC to Investigate Facebook’s Use of Facial Recognition

EPIC and a coalition of consumer groups have filed a complaint with the FTC, charging that Facebook’s use of facial recognition techniques threaten user privacy and “in multiple ways” violate the 2011 Consent Order with the Commission. “The scanning of facial images without express, affirmative consent is unlawful and must be enjoined,” the groups wrote. Last week the organizations urged the Federal Trade Commission to reopen the 2009 investigation of Facebook, arguing that the disclosure of user data to Cambridge Analytica violated the consent order, and noting that the order also prohibited Facebook from “making misrepresentations about the privacy or security of consumers’ personal information.” In 2011 EPIC and consumer groups urged the FTC to investigate Facebook’s facial recognition practices. In 2012 EPIC advised the FTC “Commercial actors should not deploy facial techniques until adequate safeguards are established. As such safeguards have not yet been established, EPIC would recommend a moratorium on the commercial deployment of these techniques.” EPIC President Marc Rotenberg said today, “Facebook should suspend further deployment of facial recognition pending the outcome of the FTC investigation.”

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