Wednesday, November 24, 2010

now facebook is sued for using user data inappropriately

It seems that Facebook just stepped into a new puddle, as reported by The Register. Facebook's Friend Finder service unethically uses user names and photos without their permission and makes false claims about its usefulness according to a civil complaint (PDF) filed on November 22 in U.S. District Court in San Jose, California. As you may already be aware, Friend Finder is a feature that allows Facebook users to sync/upload their email contact list so that they can use it on the social networking site. The service is prominently promoted by showing users, the names and photos of their friends, supposedly using the Friend Finder service.

The complaint states, "The misappropriation of names, photographs and likenesses alleged herein has a direct commercial purpose, namely, to increase Facebook's user base, thereby increasing the intensity of such use, all for the purpose of generating additional revenues. In each instance in which Facebook uses the name and likeness of a Facebook.com user to promote the Friend Finder service without consent, Facebook violates users' statutory and common law rights of publicity, creates a false endorsement and, in so doing, commits unfair competition, all in an effort to increase Facebook's already massive user reach and the corresponding advertising revenue." It further adds that even those users who have never used the contacts upload feature are seen in the promotions.

The civil complaint filed  earlier on behalf of five California-based Facebook users now seeks permission to be revised as a class action to allow other affected people to join in the cause. A compensation of $750 per class member's name being used without permission is considered with the total damages being sought amounting to $1 million.

When The Register asked a Facebook spokesman for his reaction, he replied, "We believe this suit is completely frivolous and we will fight it vigorously." We will follow up on the case and report how things develop in the next few days.