Claims that Facebook and Zynga violated federal wiretap laws were dismissed by a U.S. appeals court today. Back in 2010, Facebook and Zynga users filed separate class action lawsuits against the companies, claiming that their Facebook profile information was illegally broadcast to third parties and advertisers when they clicked on a Facebook ad or Zynga game. According to the appeals court, this doesn't violate the federal wiretap law the lawsuits were filed under. Reuters explains:
In its opinion on Thursday, a unanimous three-judge 9th Circuit panel ruled that the plaintiffs could not bring civil wiretap claims against the two companies because the information allegedly disclosed to advertisers did not qualify as the "contents of a communication" under the law.
The opinion further explained that user information is legally different from content:
Section 2702(c)(6) [of the Stored Communications Act] permits an electronic communications service or remote computing service to “divulge a record or other information pertaining to a subscriber to or customer of such service (not including the contents of communications covered by [§ 2702](a)(1) or (a)(2)) . . . to any person other than a governmental entity.” ... In other words, the Stored Communications Act generally precludes a covered entity from disclosing the contents of a communication, but permits disclosure of record information like the names, address, or client ID number of the entity's customers in certain circumstances.