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Lawsuit says Facebook plunders user names, photos

Seeks $1m for (alleged) Friend Finder sins

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A federal lawsuit filed on Monday claims Facebook's Friend Finder service uses user names and photos without permission and makes false claims about it usefulness.

The feature encourages users to upload their entire body of email contacts so they can be reunited on the social networking site. Facebook often promotes the service by showing users the names and photos of their friends along with the claim that the friends found many of their Facebook contacts using the Friend Finder service.

“The misappropriation of names, photographs and likenesses alleged herein has a direct commercial purpose, namely, to increase Facebook's user base, thereby increasing the intensity of such use, all for the purpose of generating additional revenues,” the civil complaint, which was filed in US District Court in San Jose, California, states.

“In each instance in which Facebook uses the name and likeness of a Facebook.com user to promote the Friend Finder service without consent, Facebook violates users' statutory and common law rights of publicity, creates a false endorsement and, in so doing, commits unfair competition, all in an effort to increase Facebook's already massive user reach and the corresponding advertising revenue.”

What's more, the complaint claims, many of the people featured in the promos have never even used the contacts upload feature.

The complaint was filed on behalf of five California-based Facebook users and seeks permission to be refiled as a class action so many more people may join. It seeks an award of $750 for each time a class member's name was used without permission and actual damages of at least $100 million.

"We believe this suit is completely frivolous and we will fight it vigorously,” a Facebook spokesman told The Reg. A PDF of the complaint is here. ®

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