The Secure Times

An online forum of the ABA Section of Antitrust Law's Privacy and Information Security Committee

Facebook settles case for texting “recycled” cell phone numbers

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A novel case settled yesterday involving Facebook’s “Facebook Mobile” service.  Facebook Mobile is a feature of Facebook’s social networking service that enables Facebook users to send text messages to each other via Facebook’s web interface. The trouble is, apparently, when a Facebook user who has subscribed to the service later changes his or her mobile phone number, and the old phone number is “recycled” (i.e., issued to another wireless subscriber) by the carrier, the new subscriber will begin to receive the Facebook text messages that were subscribed to by the previous holder of the phone number.
 
In October 2007, one woman in Indiana brought suit against Facebook in connection with this activity. In fact, she brought suit in the form of a class action on behalf of other wireless subscribers who are in the same predicament.  Here is a copy of her complaint
 
According to the complaint, in order to provide Facebook Mobile, Facebook struck a deal with the various wireless carriers, and allegedly derives revenue from the text messages that are sent. The complaint alleges causes of action under the California Computer Crime Law, California’s Unfair Competition Law, Unjust Enrichment, and Trespass to Chattels. 
 
Interestingly, the plaintiff did not make a claim under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Perhaps the plaintiff’s lawyers were deterred by another recent holding under the TCPA which found that the TCPA does not apply to Internet-to-phone text messages. (See my previous blog post on this case.) Or maybe they thought it would be difficult to successfully allege that it was Facebook, as opposed to their users, who sent the messages. 
 

As part of the settlement, Facebook agreed to make it easier for recipients of text messages to block future messages originating from Facebook’s social network, and to work with carriers to monitor recycled numbers. Additionally, Facebook agreed to pay the plaintiff’s attorneys fees. Facebook did not admit any wrongdoing.

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Author: ABA Antitrust

Learn more about the ABA Section of Antitrust Law: http://ambar.org/antitrust

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