Vancouver Woman Suing Facebook Over Unauthorized Photo Use in Ads

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A class action lawsuit brought against social media bigwig Facebook got the go-ahead Friday in BC’s Supreme Court.

Vancouver resident Debbie Louise Douez is seeking damages from the California-based business for unauthorized use of people’s profile photos in content marked as “Sponsored Stories.”

An attorney arguing on behalf of Douez “said users didn’t have control over whether or not their names and photos were used in sponsored stories,” according to the Sun, noting that most Facebook users aren’t even made aware their faces are showing up in sponsored content until a friend tells them they are.

For her part, Douez learned her profile photo popped up in a friend’s feed seemingly endorsing participation in the Tough Mudder race.

At issue are the privacy rights of Facebook users; there is no way to “opt out” of appearing in “Sponsored Stories” on the site, alleges the lawsuit.

“Given the almost infinite life and scope of internet images and corresponding scale of harm caused by privacy breaches, BC residents have a significant interest in maintaining some means of policing privacy violations by multi-national internet or social media service providers,” remarks B.C. Supreme Court Justice Susan Griffin in her ruling, posted May 30.

Facebook, of course, says Douez’s class action suit has “no merit,” and they plan to “pursue an immediate appeal of the court’s procedural rulings,” reports CTV.

This kind of suit, though, should be familiar to Facebook. In 2013, the company reached a $20 million settlement in the U.S. in a class action suit regarding profile image use in paid advertisements on the site. While $20M may sound like a lot, when all the math was said and done, it amounted to a measly 2 cents a user.

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Lindsay William-Ross Lindsay is a Senior Editor at Vancity Buzz, and currently runs the site's Food section. A fourth generation Vancouverite, she spent the last two decades in Los Angeles, where she was EIC of the city's top blog, earned her MA, attended culinary school, and was an English professor (among other things). Lindsay's first published piece was December 1980 in The Province; it was her letter to Santa. E-mail: lindsay@vancitybuzz.com
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