Posted December 19, 2011 6:58 am by with 3 comments

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A lawsuit against Facebook regarding their use of likenesses and more for advertising purposes is being allowed to continue despite Facebook’s attempts to stop it.

According to Bloomberg

Facebook Inc., the world’s most used social-networking service, can be sued by people who claim showing advertisements that their friends apparently like violates a California law regarding commercial endorsements.

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose rejected Facebook’s bid to dismiss the lawsuit on Dec. 16, ruling the plaintiffs may pursue claims that the company’s sponsored ads violate state law and are fraudulent. Koh granted Facebook’s request to dismiss a claim that it unjustly enriched itself with the sponsored ads.

It is obviously Facebook’s desire to take every bit of information they gather from their users and turn it into dollars. Wait, you mean the company’s altruistic PR about connecting the world and making it a better place isn’t the real reason that they do what they do, you ask? No, Virginia, it’s not and Santa isn’t real either. Facebook always tries to come off as the kid who didn’t realize that what they were doing might be wrong. They exemplify the “ask for forgiveness rather than permission” mantra that runs through many Internet players.

The article continues

A sponsored story is a paid ad consisting of another friend’s name and profile picture and claiming the person likes the advertiser. The plaintiffs claim it’s an unauthorized use of their names and likenesses and that they deserve compensation.

The “plaintiffs have articulated a coherent theory of how they were economically injured by the misappropriation of their names, photographs and likeness,” Koh wrote.

How far this ultimately goes is anyone’s guess but it’s always interesting to see just what a court will allow to continue through the process when it comes to issues like this. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the target is Facebook since many (present company included) don’t buy anything that Facebook hides behind when they try to pry more information from their users. The intent of Facebook is to make as much money off users’ information as possible and to push the limits of privacy (and often good taste) in the process. Beyond that any talk of making the world better is simply pretty words to cover up why Facebook exists.

Facebook claims that they have the right to do what they do which is no surprise

California’s Right of Publicity Statute prohibits the non- consensual use of another person’s name, voice, signature, photograph or likeness for advertising.

Facebook claimed it was immune under the law’s “newsworthiness” exemption, which doesn’t require consent. The plaintiffs are public figures to their friends and expressions of consumer opinion are generally newsworthy, Facebook said.

So according to Facebook I am a “public figure” to my friends? Really? That’s rich.

I’m not a legal eagle by any stretch but this might be worth watching over time because how Facebook is able to define its users is the crux of any position they take on using that users’ data to sell advertising.

So are you a public figure to your friends or are you a private citizen with private friends who like their privacy?

  • This “newsworthiness” defense seems doomed. Not all “Facebook friends” can be considered as “friends”; most purchasing decisions are not newsworthy; I’m not sure that looking at an advert is even a purchasing decision; and I’ve never seen a news article about anyone reading one particular advert.

    • Is “The plaintiffs are public figures to their friends” Facebook’s only defense? Their best defense?

      If so, I’m not surprised that the judge is allowing the lawsuit to proceed. That’s an argument for the appellate courts, and one I would expect them to reject.

  • Miley Cyrus Missing Panties

    This is an absolutely ridiculous decision. I have no idea how this lady got her appointment. If you remember this is the same judge who told counsel that “they must be smoking crack.”

    This is a decision that should have… well I could go on and on. This should be further defined by statute. This was in no way her decision to make.