In the case of The Facebook, Inc. v. ConnectU, three Harvard students had the idea to create a social networking site to connect Harvard students. Their idea was not singular but their idea was specific to Harvard. Mark Zuckerberg created The Facebook, Inc which while similar to ConnectU was different in its audience. One is relatively obscure and the other is an internet Giant. An idea is not patentable(Reder,2015.) ConnectU sued The Facebook, Inc claiming that Zuckerberg stole their idea and because of it they lost potential profits that he gained from their idea. ConnectU was not the first social networking company and Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are proof they weren’t the last either. The first social networking site was SixDegrees created in 1997(Stern, 1997). After battling in and out of court and their claims being dismissed, Facebook sued ConnectU claiming they had collected email address’ belonging to Facebook users and sent emails inviting them to ConnectU. Facebook claims this was a violation of their user’s privacy. ConnectU claimed that Facebook users willing put their email addresses on their Facebook pages. However, Facebook argued that while their users did willingly place their email addresses on their Facebook pages they would not have been visible to ConnectU who was not a Facebook member if they had not hired a third-party company to hack their systems to obtain those addresses (The Facebook, Inc. v. ConnectU, 2008.)Order now
The courts threw out Facebook’s claims that ConnectU hadn’t violated any laws because while they did send out emails to Facebook users email address they obtained they did not consider email names, or email addresses as copyrighted works. ConnectU has won over 65 million dollars in separate suits and continue to try to get more money out of facebook’s success. (Bar and Bench, 2011). In this particular case they hacked Facebook’s users to grown their own user base and the courts sided with them that it was ok because the information was “private”.
Airbnb, Inc. v. Schneiderman
Schneiderman was requesting names of clients, their accommodations, the dates, and durations of guest stay, the rates charged and payment methods, their revenues through the website and their tax-related communications with the website, to use as evidence that a substantial number of Airbnb’s clients might be in violation of the Multiple Dwelling Law. Under Multiple Dwelling Law, a multiple dwelling can only be used for permanent residence purposes, which requires occupancy of the unit by the same person or family for at least 30 consecutive days. Nevertheless, an investigator with the Attorney General’s Internet Bureau, who conducted searches of Airbnb’s website, decided that Airbnb’s clients were violating the Multiple Dwelling Law by renting their homes to renters for less than 30 days while not living there with them. Since the law also states that anyone operating a hotel in New York City must collect a hotel room occupancy tax (HOT) and file a certificate of registration with the New York City Department of Finance and the investigator found that most of the homeowners who were renting out their homes we not paying HOT it would require more data from Airbnb to be able to properly collect these taxes from those homeowners (Airbnb, Inc., v Schneiderman, 2014).
Airbnb filed a complaint with the courts to squash the subpoena on the basis that the subpoena, was not limited to New York City clients, or those who resided in cities, towns, or villages that have adopted the Multiple Dwelling Law, nor was it limited to rentals of less than 30 days. Therefore it would violate their clients privacy and was an overboard request, essentially a witch hunt. The court agreed and squashed the subpoena. In this case the attorney generals request for user information went too far and needed to be narrowed down to a specific New York market, and the courts saw the potential liability should they allow too much personal information to get into the wrong hands.