Facebook faces $2.1 billion privacy class action lawsuit

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A British Columbia judge will decide whether or not Facebook violated privacy rights in four provinces by attaching user names to sponsored stories

Were the privacy rights of Canadians in four provinces violated when Facebook allegedly used user profiles in sponsored ads?

That is what a judge of the Supreme Court of British Columbia will have to decide.

Justice Nitya Iyer ruled June 2 that the British Columbia Supreme Court has jurisdiction to hear a class action lawsuit against Facebook alleging the social media giant improperly used user profiles to sponsor advertising.

“Class members have not expressly or impliedly consented to Facebook’s use of their likenesses in Sponsored Stories,” Iyer said. “Facebook’s use of the band members’ likenesses was for purposes prohibited by the four privacy laws.

The complaint alleges that Facebook, Inc. used the names and images of the group’s members in its advertising program, Sponsored Stories, without their consent, contrary to the privacy laws of British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Facebook argued that California is the proper legal jurisdiction to hear the case.

Deborah Louise Douez is the plaintiff’s representative in the case, which means that the case falls under her name as the agent of all those potentially affected by the litigation.

The case began in 2012 and Douez managed to have it certified in the Supreme Court of British Columbia. Facebook appealed and lost, then appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada, where the company challenged the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of British Columbia to rule on privacy claims under privacy laws. of Manitoba and Newfoundland and Labrador.

The result was the return of the case to the Supreme Court of British Columbia.

Douez is seeking various damages between $830 million and $2.1 billion. Any rewards would be split among class members after the lawyers took their cut.

Iyer said in the court ruling that Facebook offered Sponsored Stories to advertisers. Advertisers registered with Facebook could pay the social media company to associate the advertiser’s identifiable name or brand with a user who has performed certain actions in connection with the advertiser.

These actions included liking an advertiser’s Facebook page or other content, logging into an advertiser’s site, or performing an application share to signify that the person was using or had used the advertiser app, Iyer said.

Facebook’s software would associate a banner such as “Sponsored” with that social action and the advertiser’s thumbnail icon.

The result was that the software would increase the likelihood that the user’s Facebook friends would see the sponsored story on their homepages.

However, the ruling said Facebook did not display the Sponsored Story on users’ homepages and did not notify users when their names and images were used to create a Sponsored Story.

Yet Facebook argued that by signing up or registering with Facebook, users agree to its terms of service, which means users consent to Facebook using their information in sponsored stories.

Iyer disagreed.

“I find that Facebook’s use of users’ names and profile pictures in Sponsored Stories has been violated (a term of the Terms of Service) and cannot establish consent,” Iyer said.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

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