A class action lawsuit filed against Facebook in California is seeking a whopping $15 billion in damages for privacy violations tied to the tracking of Web users.
The suit, which was filed by law firm Stewarts Law US, combines 21 privacy lawsuits filed against the social network in more than a dozen states into a single legal action. The case stems from accusations made in September 2011 that Facebook tracks user activity even after people have left the site.
According to Stewarts Law, the $15 billion figure was arrived at using statutory damages set by the federal Wiretap Act, which allows for damages of $100 per day per violation for each user, up to a maximum of $10,000. The lawsuit also claims Facebook violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the Stored Communications Act, various California statutes and California common law.
"This is not just a damages action, but a groundbreaking digital privacy rights case that could have wide and significant legal and business implications," David Straite, partner at Stewarts Law, said in a statement.
Facebook did not respond to a request from eWEEK for a comment.
Facebook has been under the microscope during the past few years, both in the U.S. and abroad in regards to its privacy controls and policies. Last year, for example, a German data protection agency expressed concern about Facebook's use of facial-recognition technology for tagging photos and threatened to fine the social network for unauthorized data collection.
On May 18, German daily newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung quoted Thilo Weichert, the data protection commissioner for the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein, as saying Facebook shareholders should be aware that regulations being considered by European privacy authorities could cause Facebook's business model to "implode."
According to a recent study by Consumer Reports, an estimated 13 million Facebook users in the United States either do not useor are unaware ofthe site's privacy controls. Additionally, 28 percent of the people the magazine polled said they share either all or almost all their Facebook posts with people beyond their "friends." In addition, only 37 percent of users say they have used the sites privacy tools to limit how much information apps are allowed to see.
"Facebook really is changing the way the world socially communicates and has become a successful service in part by leveraging copious amounts of personal data that can be spread far wider than its users might realize," Jeff Fox, Consumer Reports technology editor, said at the time in a statement.
"Our investigation revealed some fascinating, and some disquieting trendsbut ones always worth knowing for consumers who wish to keep their personal data under better control."
As of May 2012, Facebook claims more than 900 million users.