Facebook and Zynga have again been successful in securing dismissals of suits accusing the two companies of irresponsibly sharing user’s data with advertisers.
The suit in question alleges Facebook and Zynga violated privacy by disclosing confidential user information to advertisers and other third parties, and hinges on referrer headers used in Facebook pages. These headers showed user Facebook IDs and previous page viewed, so advertisers (and ad hosts) can determine who clicks on ads, and where they were when they saw the ads.
The suit argued that Facebook and Zynga collected and stored this information, which violates the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act and Stored Communications Act, as well as California’s consumer and computer fraud statutes.
A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Appeals Court [PDF] elected not to review the suit, upholding an earlier US District Court decision that the plaintiffs had not made a claim under federal law. The court ruled that the referral header information does not constitute the contents of a communication; it’s a fine distinction, but while – for example – a search term comes under the heading of a “communication”, referrals do not.