Facebook’s controversial and widely-disdained Beacon service, which it originally introduced in November, has led to the company being slapped with another class action lawsuit. The suit alleges that Facebook never sought user approval before collecting personal information, and was also keeping tabs on people who weren’t even signed up for Facebook.
The class action lawsuit was filed on August 12 in the California Northern District Court, and includes the following passages (you can see the full text below):
“The Beacon program sent information regarding specific user transactions on Facebook Beacon Activated Affiliates’ websites to Facebook regardless of whether the user was a Facebook member or not. Thus, no consent was sought, nor was any consent obtained from persons who utilize the Facebook Beacon Activated Affiiliate’s website who were not Facebook members…”
“It was deceptive because, in almost every instance, the information sharing was contrary to the stated privacy policies of the Facebook website and every other Facebook Beacon Activated Affiliate that had signed up for the program.”
A number of Beacon affiliates besides Facebook are named in the suit, including Blockbuster, Fandango, Hotwire, Travel Inc, Overstock, Zappos, and Gamefly.
Beacon’s launch last November was quickly met with waves of criticism, as users were automatically signed up for the ad system. Facebook eventually change its policies to make the ad system opt-in (effectively killing it for most people), but the damage had already been done. Earlier this year, a woman sued Blockbuster for sharing her rental choices with her peers.
Beacon hasn’t been Facebook’s only privacy misstep. The social network instituted a system earlier this year that added images of a user’s friends to some advertisements, confusing and upsetting many users. Our own $25 million suit against Facebook for the unlawful use of Michael Arrington’s likeness to endorse shoddy products is still pending.