Internet Law and Class Action Lawsuits

In recent times, the concern over the distribution of, and access to, users’ data on the web continues due to rising cyber activity. This has lead to an increase in Internet-related class action lawsuits.

What are the different types of class action categories?

One category of class actions relates to the use of internet cookies, which are utilized by websites and applications to obtain information about users’ activities.  These files are saved on a user’s hard drive, so the host server gains access to certain information (e.g., user’s identity and recent transactions). “Zombie cookies” have become a concern leading to class action lawsuits, as they cannot be deleted and lead to online surveillance of users.  Online advertising has also become a source of class action lawsuits, as third-party advertisers have teamed up with websites to use cookies without consent.  As a result, online behavioral advertising is created based on a user’s browsing history in order to create relevant advertisements, which may violate privacy policies.  Another category of class action is brought when a company website violates its own terms of service or privacy policies, sometimes leading to breached databases. The last category has to do with information contained on social media platforms.  As a general matter, user profiles on social media platforms (e.g., LinkedIn, Facebook) yield a large quantity of information.  These social media platforms create user profiles that are shared with third parties such as advertising firms.

What are some recent class action cases?

These cases typically occur when, often without the knowledge of the company or website, an unauthorized third party steals user information due to inadequately-secured servers.  In April of 2015, Max Schrems’ Europe vs. Facebook involved 25,000 users who claimed that Facebook had illegally collected user data, invalidated privacy policies, and had been keeping users’ likes and apps under surveillance for behavioral advertising purposes. Facebook has also been accused of taking part in the NSA’s Prism Surveillance Program. In May of 2015, Yahoo also faced a class action lawsuit in California.  Yahoo was accused of using email as a way to boost its revenue via advertising to its 275 million mail subscribers, violating California’s Invasion of Privacy Act.  In these cases, class action lawsuits were used to simplify the process of a group to receive larger damages at a lower cost.

What is the future of class action?

At this time, class action cases remain complicated, and time consuming, due to the vast networks and policies that exist in the cyber world.  Users should be cautious and monitor the information they provide online, as well as their security settings on third party and social media platforms.  The Federal Trade Commission insists that online platforms should designate a privacy staff in order to avoid future conflicts and liabilities when it comes to privacy violations. However, privacy policies remain complicated because personal information is also used to promote services for consumers.  With the largest companies in cyberspace constantly involved with class action privacy cases, it is difficult to determine the future of class action lawsuits.

At our law firm, we inform and protect clients regarding internet and cyberspace violations. You may contact us in order to setup an initial consultation