In recent years, the digital landscape has become a battleground for privacy rights, with Meta Pixel at the epicenter of numerous legal disputes. Companies using Meta Pixel and similar tracking technologies increasingly face legal scrutiny. This surge is not limited to Meta alone; it extends to any organization that employs these technologies for data collection and targeted advertising. A pixel tool is a small piece of code embedded into the HTML of a website designed to measure user interactions and provide online advertising. Pixel tools are often made available to website owners by third parties, who can access and analyze the data collected on behalf of website owners. Those tools can subject users to serious legal liability and the number of threat letters being sent by opportunistic attorneys continues to explode. Unfortunately, the number of class actions being filed against thrid-parties using this sort of technology also continues to increase.
If your company has recently received a cease-and-desist letter or any form of legal threat related to using Meta Pixel or similar technology, this article should help you start to understand next steps. The attorneys at Traverse aim to provide you with a comprehensive understanding of the potential liabilities you could face, the defenses you might employ, and the critical role of an experienced lawyer handling Meta Pixel claims.
The legal environment surrounding Meta Pixel and similar tracking technologies is complex and rapidly evolving. Over the past year, dozens of class-action lawsuits have been filed, targeting not just Meta but also companies that utilize Meta Pixel for data collection. These lawsuits often cite violations of decades-old laws, such as the Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA) of 1988 and federal and state wiretapping laws.
Many of the threat letters are coming from law firms such as the Swigart Law Group.
Understanding the laws being cited in these lawsuits is crucial for any company facing legal threats. The VPPA, for instance, prohibits the unauthorized disclosure of personally identifiable information related to video consumption. Wiretapping laws, both federal and state, make it illegal to intercept or eavesdrop on private communications without consent. These laws were originally designed for different eras and technologies but are now being applied to modern data collection methods.
Several cases have already made it past the motion to dismiss stage, signaling that courts are willing to entertain these claims. For example, in Ambrose v. Boston Globe Media Partners LLC, the court allowed the case to proceed, stating that the plaintiff had stated a viable claim under the VPPA. On the other hand, some cases have been dismissed, often based on the specific nature of the data being collected and whether it falls under the legal definitions of “personally identifiable information.”
Companies using Meta Pixel and similar technologies should be aware of the two primary types of claims being made against them: content-dependent and content-agnostic claims. Content-dependent claims involve the unauthorized sharing of sensitive data, such as healthcare information, which could lead to violations of consumer protection statutes or HIPAA. Content-agnostic claims, on the other hand, focus on the mere act of data collection and allege violations of wiretapping laws, irrespective of the nature of the data collected.
Several companies have already faced the legal ramifications of using tracking technologies. For instance, a case against Advocate Aurora Health, Inc. alleges violations of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act among other claims. The case has been transferred to the Eastern District of Wisconsin and is yet to be seen whether it survives the motion to dismiss. These lawsuits can result in hefty fines, reputational damage, and operational disruptions, making it imperative for companies to understand their potential liability.
It’s crucial to note that the legal scrutiny is not limited to Meta Pixel alone. Other technologies like session-replay software and chatbot functionality are also under the legal microscope. Companies using these technologies are equally at risk and should be prepared for potential litigation. Other technologies similar to Meta Pixel are also creating risks for users of those technologies:
Several cases offer valuable insights into what defenses have been successful. For example, in Martin v. Meredith Corp., the court dismissed the case on the grounds that the data sent did not qualify as “personally identifiable information” (PII) under the VPPA. Understanding the nuances of these cases can help you tailor your own legal strategy effectively.
In the complex and evolving landscape of privacy litigation, having an experienced law firm by your side is not just advisable—it’s essential. Legal experts can provide invaluable guidance on assessing your company’s risk profile, preparing robust defenses, and even proactively preventing litigation through compliance audits and policy reviews.
Your legal team can conduct a thorough risk assessment to identify potential vulnerabilities in your data collection and storage practices. This proactive step can help you understand the legal implications of your current operations and make necessary adjustments before facing a lawsuit.
Even with the best preventive measures, the risk of litigation is ever-present. An experienced law firm can help you prepare a strong litigation strategy, from filing motions to dismiss to negotiating settlements or fighting the case in court. Their expertise can be the difference between a costly legal battle and a favorable resolution.
If you’ve received a cease-and-desist letter or are concerned about potential legal threats, there are immediate steps you can take to mitigate risks. First, review your current data collection practices and ensure they align with state and federal laws. Update your privacy policies and terms of service to clearly outline your data collection and usage practices.
Regular legal audits can help you stay ahead of the curve. These audits, ideally conducted in collaboration with your legal counsel, can identify potential areas of risk and recommend corrective actions. They can also help you adapt to new legal developments, ensuring that you’re always in compliance.
The legal landscape surrounding Meta Pixel and similar tracking technologies is far from static. With new lawsuits being filed and laws being enacted, companies must remain vigilant and proactive in their approach to data privacy. Ignoring or underestimating the legal risks can result in severe consequences, both financially and reputationally.
In this complex environment, being reactive is not an option. Companies must take immediate steps to assess their risk, consult with experienced legal counsel, and implement robust risk mitigation strategies. The cost of inaction is simply too high.