by Jonathan Benson, staff
” natural news ”
If you use Facebook and think your personal information is private and secure, think again. Back in January, the social media empire unveiled a new “Sponsored Stories” function that attaches user photos to the goods and services they “Like” in order to market such products to friends and acquaintances. A new lawsuit in California alleges that this practice violates numerous laws in the “Golden State,” and perhaps elsewhere.
According to the allegations, Facebook’s marketing initiatives violate California’s Right of Publicity Statute as well as its unfair trade practices law. The allegations also claim Facebook is unfairly enriching itself at the users expense, which US District Judge Lucy Koh of San Jose apparently believes may be valid, as she recently rejected Facebook’s petition to her court to have the suit dropped.
The plaintiffs claimed that using the faces and names of people without their permission is illegal. California’s Right of Publicity Statute prohibits company’s from using the names, voices, signatures, photographs, or likeness of individuals for the purpose of advertising, without their expressed permission. And since Facebook users were neither told about the Sponsored Stories program when it began, nor asked for permission to be a part of it, Facebook is in violation of the law, they claim.
Many Facebook users are still in the dark about how the site is using their personal data in general, including in the new Sponsored Stories program. Users were automatically “enrolled” in the program without their permission, and without being informed about it, back in January. And instead of an opt-in system, users are given the unannounced option to opt-out, at least in a limited form — that is if they are able to successfully navigate Facebook’s convoluted privacy section to find the section in which to do this.
Facebook, on the other hand, has implied in its limited response that its users are all “public figures,” and that the statute does not apply to them. The social media site views the Sponsored Stories program as a type of “trusted referral” system, these being the words of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who also said that such a system is the “Holy Grail of advertising.”
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