Facebook Dodges Data Scraping Suit After District Court Chooses Not to Follow Recent Ninth Circuit Decisions

Steven T. Lowe

“New York City, USA – August 25, 2013: Close-up view of 10 facebook notifications on a smart phone. Facebook is a social networking service, owned and operated by Facebook, Inc.”

On May 14, 2021, the United States District Court in the Northern District of California granted a motion to dismiss in favor of Facebook in a class-action suit. The lawsuit alleged that Facebook used “data scraping” to collect Android users’ call and text logs and later sold that information to advertisers. The District Court granted the motion to dismiss because the plaintiffs alleged that Facebook collected “metadata” (i.e., the data regarding the identity of the sender, the duration of a call and the time it was placed, the user’s cellular provider) rather than the actual contents of the messages and phone calls. That is because the District Court interpreted California’s Invasion of Privacy Act (“CIPA”) to require that the content of messages be appropriated, not just the metadata, to violate the CIPA.

The District Court acknowledged that recent Ninth Circuit decisions have not distinguished between “metadata” and “content” in Fourth Amendment claims. However, according to the District Court, the distinction still exists for claims brought under the CIPA. Accordingly, in dismissing the complaint, the District Court allowed the plaintiffs to amend and refile their complaint within 21 days.

The users are represented by L. Timothy Fisher, Scott A. Bursor, and Neal J. Deckant of Bursor & Fisher PA.

Facebook is represented by Elizabeth L. Deeley, Susan E. Engel, Nicole Charlene Valco, and Joseph C. Hansen of Latham & Watkins LLP.

The case is Williams et al. v. Facebook Inc., case number 3:18-cv-01881, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

* Lowe & Associates (“The Firm”) is an entertainment and business law firm located in Beverly Hills, California. The Firm has extensive experience handling cases involving invasion of privacy, having provided top-quality legal services to its clients since 1991. The Firm is recognized for its many achievements, including successfully litigating many high-profile cases.

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