|Facebook challenged over use of teen postings to promote commercial interests
A group of consumer and children's advocates are renewing their legal battle with Facebook over teenagers' privacy on the online social network.
At issue is how the company uses the vast trove of information that its users share on the site.
Facebook faced a class action lawsuit in 2011 over its use of people's images in advertisements known as “sponsored stories.'' This allowed companies to pay to retransmit users' activities to their friends' pages. If someone clicked the “like'' button for a brand, the click could show up as a “sponsored story'' on friends' pages.
To settle the lawsuit, Facebook agreed to pay US$20 million to users and in charitable contributions and make changes to its privacy policies. The settlement was approved by a federal court last August, though appeals are pending.
On Thursday, the nonprofit Public Citizen, along with six parents of teenagers, filed a legal brief in a federal appeals court in California saying the settlement should be rejected.
Public Citizen and supporting groups, such as the Center for Digital Democracy, argue that the settlement should have not been approved because using minors' images in ads without parental consent violates the law in seven states.
“Class-action settlements are supposed to compensate people for wrongdoing and deter the defendant from engaging in the bad behavior in future. This settlement does neither,'' said Scott Michelman, the Public Citizen attorney handling the case, in a statement.
The filing said the settlement fails to compel the social network to change its ways when it comes to using profile images of teenage members in ads without the consent of parents or guardians.
The practice is specifically banned by laws in California and six other US states, according to Public Citizen attorney Scott Michelman.
“The capture and republication of teen postings by Facebook is a pernicious assault on their rights to decide where their messages should go,'' said Robert Fellmeth, director of the Children's Advocacy Institute at the University of San Diego School of Law, which is representing another challenger to the settlement.
Jodi Seth, a spokeswoman for Facebook, said that the settlement “goes beyond what any other company has done to provide consumers visibility into and control over their information in advertising.''
Margaret Becker, one of the parents involved in the lawsuit, said she did not know about Facebook's practice of using users' images in ads until a friend mentioned it to her. Her daughter said she saw her image pop up in a sponsored link on a friend's Facebook page. It was for a band she liked.
“Her liking a band, that's fine, I don't have any problem mentioning to her friends that she likes a band,'' Becker said. “[But] that's really different from her being an advertisement for that band.’’--AP/AFP