Right on schedule, Zynga has been hit with a class action lawsuit over the leak of Facebook user data that came to light earlier this week.
I think it's safe to say that we all saw this one coming. On Monday, the Wall Street Journal revealed that numerous popular Facebook apps, including the mega-hit Zynga game FarmVille, had been sending identifiable user ID numbers to outside companies. Facebook claimed the breach was unintentional and the information was all publicly available anyway, but nonetheless it suspended several apps until the problem could be addressed. FarmVille was not among that number, although Zynga pledged to work with Facebook to "refine how web technologies work to keep people in control of their information."
Now it's Wednesday, and the inevitable lawsuits have begun. In the first, Nancy Graf of St. Paul, Minnesota, alleges that Zynga shared the data of its 218 million users with advertisers and data trackers "in violation of federal law and Zynga's contract with Facebook." And now she wants some money.
"This appears to be another example of an online company failing the American public with empty promises to respect individual privacy rights," Michael Aschenbrener, a co-lead attorney on the suit, said in a statement. Fellow co-lead attorney Kassra Nassiri added, "Companies large and small need to learn to follow through on their privacy promises or risk having consumers decide that it is simply not worth it to use their services."
And, of course, that they want money. The class action suit seeks "monetary relief for those whose data was wrongly shared, and injunctive relief to prevent continued privacy abuses."
I'm really not sure what to make of this one. I think we can all agree that once in awhile the whip has to crack, but is this leak really worth a lawsuit? As someone noted in an earlier thread, the user ID numbers being transmitted, such as 1296236781, can all be accessed by anyone who cares to look for them. There's also the very obvious question of, "Why Zynga?" It was far from the only app maker involved in the leak, yet the lawsuit drives straight for it. Would we be seeing this kind of multi-law-firm response to a less-famous (and less cashed-up) game maker?
Zynga responded to the lawsuit with a statement saying, "We believe that the complaint is without merit and we intend to defend against it vigorously."