Facebook User Files Suit (Then Drops It) for Not Protecting Users Against Viruses

theodoreWhile Facebook should work hard protect the social network from pieces of malware, such as the Koobface virus, users are ultimately responsible for any harm visited upon their account or computer. Theodore Karantsalis, of Miami Springs, Fla., learned that in a very public way this week, when he dropped a lawsuit he filed against Facebook for $70.50.

According to a report from CNET, Karantsalis alleged that Facebook failed to adequately protect users such as him from a virus, which he said caused his account to be temporarily suspended. When his account was restored, he claims he couldn’t get access to his pictures and a good portion of his existing friend list.

Facebook, for its part, didn’t budge to his demands. A Facebook spokesperson confirmed in the CNET report that Facebook disabled the account and served up Karantsalis with a new password, which is standard practice for an infected account. But the company denied deleting any pictures or friends. More importantly, Facebook’s terms of service (in section 14) are very clear on the responsibility of users as it concerns viruses:

“WE TRY TO KEEP FACEBOOK UP, BUG-FREE, AND SAFE, BUT YOU USE IT AT YOUR OWN RISK. “WE DO NOT GUARANTEE THAT FACEBOOK WILL BE SAFE OR SECURE…WE WILL NOT BE LIABLE TO YOU FOR ANY LOST PROFITS OR OTHER CONSEQUENTIAL, SPECIAL, INDIRECT, OR INCIDENTAL DAMAGES ARISING OUT OF OR IN CONNECTION WITH THIS STATEMENT OR FACEBOOK, EVEN IF WE HAVE BEEN ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES.”

Karantsalis, a librarian and “privacy advocate,” has a history of suing companies. He sued Sprint and Wells Fargo when his Sprint invoice was exposed to an online banker at Wells Fargo (a bank he didn’t use). For the Facebook suit, he claims he arrived at the $70.50 number by charging around 30 cents for each friend he had to add back to this account.

Conclusion

Facebook was smart to hold firm with this lawsuit, which sounded, at best, gimmicky. But we do think this news is important for the mere reason that the stakes for protecting Facebook’s users could increase as people start making more monetary transactions over the platform through Facebook credits (which Facebook says it will start testing soon).

It would be bad if anyone loses their entire Facebook portfolio of pictures (though that doesn’t appear like it actually happened in this case). But as Facebook works on new systems for monetization, it must be vigilant that viruses and resulting data leakage could affect users in a more dangerous way. In such a scenario, the blanket terms of service disclaimer won’t be as effective in the public eye (or court).