By Jonathan Stempel
(Reuters) – A U.S. judge has dismissed nationwide litigation accusing Facebook Inc <FB.O> of tracking users’ internet activity even after they logged out of the social media website.
In a decision late on Friday, U.S. District Judge Edward Davila in San Jose, California said the plaintiffs failed to show they had a reasonable expectation of privacy, or that they suffered any “realistic” economic harm or loss.
The plaintiffs claimed that Facebook violated federal and California privacy and wiretapping laws by storing cookies on their browsers that tracked when they visited outside websites containing Facebook “like” buttons.
But the judge said the plaintiffs could have taken steps to keep their browsing histories private, and failed to show that Menlo Park, California-based Facebook illegally “intercepted” or eavesdropped on their communications.
“The fact that a user’s web browser automatically sends the same information to both parties,” meaning Facebook and an outside website, “does not establish that one party intercepted the user’s communication with the other,” Davila wrote.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs did not immediately respond on Monday to requests for comment. Facebook did not immediately respond to a similar request.
Davila said the plaintiffs cannot bring their privacy and wiretapping claims again, but can try to pursue a breach of contract claim again. He had dismissed an earlier version of the 5-1/2-year-old case in October 2015.
The case is In re: Facebook Internet Tracking Litigation, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, No. 12-md-02314.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Bill Rigby)