Facebook Turns 10: A Legal Status Update

By Brett Snider, Esq. on February 04, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Facebook is celebrating its 10th anniversary today. While the social media giant may get a "thumbs up" from many of its (more than) 1 billion users worldwide, it hasn't been the smoothest 10 years for the company, litigation-wise.

As anyone who saw "The Social Network" will know, Facebook had quite a litigious birth. And it seems the lawsuits just keep on coming.

Here's a look back at some of the more significant Facebook cases over the past decade:

Privacy Battles

A little more than four years ago, Facebook settled a major privacy case (although not likely to be the last) concerning its Beacon program. In a class action suit settled in 2009, Facebook agreed to give $9.5 million to fund an online privacy non-profit and canned the Beacon project.

Unfortunately, after four years, only $6.5 million went to the Digital Trust Foundation ($3 million went to lawyers and administrative costs) and Facebook users got nothing. A federal appellate court upheld this settlement, although others remain skeptical that the DTF actually helped anyone.

Facebook also settled a case with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over resetting users' privacy settings after a 2009 policy change, requiring Facebook to undergo biannual third-party audits. Still, that didn't stop the social media giant from getting in trouble over the company's "Sponsored Stories" program.

Lawsuits Strange and Current

The wide use of Facebook has also led to a variety of bizarre lawsuits against the Silicon Valley company.

For example, when a photo related to a murder investigation surfaced on Facebook, the victim's family sued the social media platform to have it taken down and prevent its further dissemination.

Turning to the more current side, Facebook began 2014 with a suit involving its alleged practice of scanning users' messages to sell data to advertisers. Not only does this suit call into question the last 10 years' worth of privacy suits and attempts to correct problems, but it also alleges that Facebook may have also violated the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

Who can say what the next 10 years may hold for Facebook, but its legal advisors are probably hoping for less time in court.

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