Some people don’t like ads. But a new class action lawsuit in California against Facebook (embedded below) thinks it should be illegal for teenagers to like any ads without first obtaining parental consent.
We’ve written before about the legal implications of using the likeness of Facebook members in advertising, but this time it is not a joke. And the issue is Facebook’s “Like” button, not using the likeness of a person to plug a product. On Facebook, you can “like” any status update or post in your stream, but you can also “like” ads. When you do so, it can appear as a status update to all your friends if that ad is linked to a Facebook page, thus turning the “like” button into a social endorsement. (If it is not linked to a page, liking an ad is simply used by Facebook to help them determine the quality of an ad, and it will not appear in your stream).
The class action lawyers claim that in the case of teenagers, Facebook is “misappropriating the names and pictures of minors for profit.” Facebook might say that it is in its terms of service, that’s how the site works. But the lawsuit hinges on a loophole in California law which requires parental consent in order to obtain a minor’s consent for using their name or likeness for an advertisement, And Facebook doesn’t do that. Lawsuits like this one could result in anyone under 18 having to get their parents’ permission to sign up for Facebook, which might not be a bad idea.
Something tells me that the lawyers are more outraged here than the teenagers (in so far as outrage can be fueled by greed). This is not the first class action lawsuit against Facebook, and it won’t be the last. I’ve asked Facebook for a response.
Update: Facebook responds: “We believe this suit is completely without merit and we will fight it vigorously. The complaint misunderstands the law, it’s intent and the way Facebook works. For example, plaintiffs assert that minors are marketing Facebook through search engines but we do not allow minors to include their profiles in search engines.” Read more.