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Privacy? What’s that? Facebook lawyer argues users have none

Privacy? What’s that? Facebook lawyer argues users have none
Facebook’s lawyer has denied the social media platform invaded American users’ privacy when it allowed their personal data to be slurped up by Cambridge Analytica, claiming they had no privacy to begin with. No crime, no victims?

There is no invasion of privacy at all, because there is no privacy,” attorney Orin Snyder argued in a motion to have a class-action lawsuit against Facebook dismissed in California’s Northern District Court this week. The suit alleges Facebook’s failure to protect user data from predatory third parties like Cambridge Analytica constitutes invasion of privacy, breach of contract, and negligence and violates other privacy statutes. 

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You have to closely guard something to have a reasonable expectation of privacy,” Snyder explained, claiming that Facebook is merely a “digital town square” where users voluntarily dispense with any notion of privacy and any “reasonable Facebook user” would have been aware that third-party app-makers could access their data through friends’ activity.

US District Court Judge Vince Chhabria pointed out that just last month, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was rapturously declaring “the future is private!” and announcing the company’s privacy-focused new direction – a far cry from Snyder’s scornful dismissal of the concept. Nor did Chhabria agree with the Facebook lawyer’s assertion that users were explicitly informed of the limits of their privacy through the platform’s terms of service, suggesting that a user who signed up 10 years ago probably hadn’t read those terms every time the company changed them.

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Facebook, which had previously described the class-action suit filed earlier this year as “a kitchen sink-like lobbing of 50 claims - all in the hopes that something, anything, sticks,” complained that if the plaintiffs are so anxious about privacy and digital life in general, they can stop using Facebook at any time. Chhabria was not amused.

The California suit is dwarfed by the pile of legal issues currently facing Facebook, including an FTC probe that the company expects to top $5 billion, criminal probes over its secret (and possibly illegal) data-sharing deals with third-party corporations, and government sanctions from multiple countries.

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