Facebook hit with privacy-violation lawsuit

The California suit says people don't understand how the social network uses their information

Five people have filed a suit against Facebook, charging the social-networking company with violating California privacy laws and false advertising.

Facebook users assume that personal information and photos that they post on the site are shared only with authorized friends, the suit, filed in the Superior Court for California in Orange County, says. "Users may be unaware that data they submit ... may be extracted and then shared, stored, licensed or downloaded by other persons or third parties they have not expressly authorized," the suit reads.

Writing and photos that people share on the Internet are protected by law, so using that content without permission from the owner infringes on the creator's rights, the lawsuit alleges.

The suit describes at length a massive data mining operation at Facebook, which it says has transformed itself from a social-networking company to a data-mining company. It faults the company for collecting and analyzing site content without user knowledge or consent.

The social-networking site said that it sees no merit to the suit and plans to fight it.

This isn't the first time Facebook has come under fire for its privacy policies. Earlier this year it changed its terms of use to essentially claim perpetual ownership of all content loaded on the site. In response to a user uproar, it later omitted that portion of its terms of use.

The Privacy Commission of Canada recently said that Facebook doesn't comply with Canada's privacy laws. That's after Facebook let users vote on one of two new terms of service options.

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Nancy Gohring

IDG News Service
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