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Facebook accused of 'wanton' use of Canadian woman's pics

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A Canadian woman has filed a class action lawsuit against Facebook in the Supreme Court of British Columbia for "wanton, reckless and callous" use of her photo and profile in the social network's ads.

Debbie Douez is claiming that Facebook used her face and profile in ads without getting her permission or paying her a penny, Canadian national public broadcaster CBC reported.

The suit singles out Facebook's "Sponsored Story" ads, which now appear in users' timelines and are often generated by friends of the user clicking to like a business or group's Page.

In Douez's case, she had "Liked" a Page called "Cool Entrepreneurs", which then showed up in her friends' timelines as "Debbie Douez likes Cool Entrepreneurs" in an advertisement.

This kind of usage is covered in Facebook's privacy policy, but Douez is claiming that since the site used her image and profile for paid advertising, rather than just informing her Facebook friends that she had hit the Like button, they owed her one.

The court filing read:

Facebook does not give notice to members that their names or portraits are being used in connection with a Sponsored Story or that Facebook is depicting that member as endorsing a particular good or service.

The plaintiff did not consent to Facebook's use of her name or portrait in Sponsored Stories advertising or promoting Cool Entrepreneurs or any other good or service.

Facebook did not pay the plaintiff for the use of her name or portrait in Sponsored Stories advertising or promoting Cool Entrepreneurs ... notwithstanding that such use generated advertising revenues for Facebook.

"Sponsored Stories" has been around on Facebook for a couple of years now, but only started to add users' photos and roll out on their Timelines towards the end of last year. Since then, the ID-snaffling ad-push has been met with a lot of criticism, including that the explanations in the privacy policy aren't enough to allow the social network to use profiles for advertising.

The website of the law firm working on Debbie Douez's case – Branch MacMaster – invites other Canadian Facebook members to join the suit and says that similar claims were being filed in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

The case in British Columbia is claiming a breach of the Privacy Act and asking for punitive damages:

Facebook's use of the plaintiff and class members' names or portraits without consent was high-handed, outrageous, wanton, reckless, callous, disgraceful, wilful and entirely without care for the plaintiff's and class members' statutory right to control the use of their own names or portraits.

Facebook had not returned a request for comment at the time of publication. ®

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