New Privacy Lawsuit Throws The Kitchen Sink At Facebook

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A new lawsuit filed against Facebook in the Superior Court of California in Orange County is one of the more entertaining documents we’ve had the pleasure of reading recently. A lot of lawsuits against Facebook are fairly serious, but this one certainly isn’t — we haven’t seen litigation this amusing since the Attorney General of South Carolina set his sights on Craigslist to kick-start his campaign for governor.

Plaintiffs in the case appear to have engaged in run of the mill socializing on Facebook: sharing photos, writing status updates and similar things. They’re then complaining that privacy, copyright and other rights are violated as people look at the photos, read the updates, etc. It’s sort of like jumping into a pool and then complaining that you’re wet.

The lawsuit complains about or at least insidiously describes pretty much every single part of Facebook, from the nefarious “wall” to a potentially incriminating “Data Analyst” job listing the company posted in 2007. Oh, and the best part? The AP and WSJ just reported the case straight, without the slightest suggestion that the Plaintiffs might be a little off. We’ve embedded the full, 40 page suit below.

So what are the Plantiffs accusing Facebook of? The suit alleges that that Facebook is at its core a “data mining company.. [that] seeks to open and/or disseminate private information to third parties for commercial purposes and economic benefit” and that “Facebook has created a business model and apparatus designed to harvest as much personal and private information as possible in easiest, quickest, and most innocuous-looking manner possible.” Cue the ominous music. It gets better.

The complaints from the individual Plaintiffs involve everything from swine flu to “accomplished actresses”. We’ve excerpted a couple of them below.

“Plaintiff Xavier O. is an 11-year-old minor residing with his parents in Orange County, California. Plaintiff Xavier O. has a Facebook account that was opened without the knowledge or consent of his parent or guardian. Plaintiff Xavier O. has uploaded personal information, videos and photographs, including swimming and/or partially clothed photographs of children ages 5 to 11. On or about August 8, 2009, Plaintiff Xavier O. posted “Xavier O. has swine flu… Please pray for me… God Bless.” Upon learning of the Facebook account and the posting of an uncertain medical condition, Plaintiff Xavier O’s parents removed the medical condition posting from Facebook. Xavier O. and his parents have been unable to learn where the minor’s medical information may have been stored, disseminated or sold by Facebook.”


Plaintiff Elvina Beck is an accomplished actress and model residing in Los Angeles, California. Plaintiff Beck has multiple commercial representatives/agents for print, commercial and theatrical work. Plaintiff Beck’s name, likeness and photos are highly valuable commercial assets. Plaintiff Beck appears in national print advertisements, commercials and films, and she is compensated for such work. Beck’s filmography includes Love Hurts, Privileged, CSI: New York, and ESPN 25. Plaintiff Beck’s digital images have been disseminated by Facebook without her consent, knowledge, or compensation.

Another Plantiff is apparently objecting to the fact that Facebook has changed over the years from a college-only social network to a much broader one, and is unhappy with the way the site’s Terms of Service were modified over the years. Except it’s quite common for sites to change their ToS without giving notice. There goes that idea.

In short, the Plantiffs are complaining about many of the very mechanisms that make Facebook a social network. They’re also complaining about issues that have been addressed before — some of the concerns over content ownership issues are pretty explicitly spelled out in the site’s Terms, which state “You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how we share your content through your privacy and application settings.” There may be some nuggets of validity hidden in here, but you’re going to have to look hard to find them.

Facebook has given us the following brief response regarding the suit:

We see no merit to this suit and we plan to fight it.

Image by Goleta on Flickr.
http://d.scribd.com/ScribdViewer.swf?document_id=18742082&access_key=key-20kk1bcht5ld4i0dbzx4&page=1&version=1&viewMode=list

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