Meta faces lawsuits over privacy workarounds

Meta is facing two class action lawsuits after finding that both Facebook and Instagram are tracking iPhone users even after users were denied permission to do so via Apple’s app tracking transparency feature.

In recent iOS updates, iPhone users could opt out of in-app tracking and prevent any app from tracking their data. Apple’s decision sent shockwaves through the tech industry, with Meta saying the decision alone cost her an estimated $10 billion a year.

Last month, a researcher found evidence that Meta embedded tracking code in every website viewed in its in-app browsers in Facebook and Instagram apps, even when users asked the app not to track them. In extreme cases, this would allow Facebook and Instagram to monitor every interaction a user has with their browser, including password entries and credit card numbers.

“I don’t have a list of exact dates that Instagram sends home,” Felix Krause, founder of fastlane, an open-source app building tool, wrote in his report. “I have evidence that the Instagram and Facebook app is actively running JavaScript commands to inject an additional JS [software development kit code] without the user’s consent, as well as tracking the user’s text selections. If Instagram is already doing this, they could inject any other JS code as well.”

The lawsuits depend on those built-in browsers that both Facebook and Instagram have built into their apps, which are used whenever a user taps a link, rather than directing them to something like Apple’s Safari browser outside of the app.

According to the report, Meta was hit by two class-action lawsuits this week. Both cases were filed in the Northern District of California and largely raise the same concerns that Meta is bypassing Apple’s privacy efforts.

Both call Meta’s “undisclosed tracking of citizens’ browsing activity and communications” a violation of federal and state privacy and wiretapping laws, and claim that this unlawful activity entitles plaintiffs and group members to recover damages.

“The user information that Meta intercepts, monitors, and records includes personally identifiable information, private health information, text input, and other sensitive confidential facts.” Mitchell v Meta Platforms, Inc. said in his complaint.

The other, Willis et al. against Meta Platforms, Inc., quotes the Krause report in the complaint.

“If a user were to access the same third-party website directly through their web browser, rather than through Facebook’s in-app browser, the user’s browser would actively block and prevent Meta from intercepting and tracking the user’s activity on the third-party website .” it said in the complaint. “But Meta tracks the same activity as the user interacts with their in-app browser.”

In a statement to the Daily Dot, a meta spokesman said the allegations were “unfounded” and that the company had “designed our in-app browser to respect users’ privacy choices, including the way data is stored for ads can be used”.

Both lawsuits seek plaintiffs “the greater of $10,000 or $100 per day for each day of violation.”


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*Initial publication: September 22, 2022 at 2:36 pm CDT

Jacob Seitz

Jacob Seitz is a freelance journalist originally from Columbus, Ohio, interested in the intersection of culture and politics.

Jacob Seitz Meta faces lawsuits over privacy workarounds

Jaclyn Diaz

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