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Woman sues over Facebook ads


A class-action lawsuit has been filed against Facebook in B.C., with a Vancouver woman alleging the social media giant misused her image - and those belonging to other members - in linking it to advertisements.

Debbie Douez is taking on Facebook's "Sponsored Stories" feature, which the company sells to third-party advertisers. It shows a picture of users who have 'liked' a product or service to their friends for marketing purposes. Douez 'liked' a page called "Cool Entrepreneurs," and her image with the caption "Debbie Douez likes Cool Entrepreneurs" started showing up in contacts' feeds and right hand sidebars. "It's like making a statement you like or use something, then appearing on a billboard without being told," said lawyer Luciana Brasil, who's representing Douez in the action.

"Facebook is taking actions of the members in their Facebook environment, such as liking something, and translating that as giving an endorsement about products or services," Brasil explained. "Even if you generally like something in the sense of affinity, it doesn't necessarily mean you've agreed to appear in an endorsement for that product. And it doesn't necessarily mean you like the product or service. Sometimes they want a promotion or haven't formed any conclusions as to whether they truly have an affinity for the product."

A Facebook spokesman couldn't be reached for comment. A statement of defence hasn't been filed and the allegations not proven in court.

Brasil added that though Facebook policy declares its ownership of everything posted to the site, that ownership does not extend to use in ads. She also noted there is no way to opt out with Facebook's privacy settings.

Brasil said the practice violates provincial privacy laws as well as similar provincial statutes in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

The claim states that Facebook says "recommendations of friends have a powerful influence on consumer interest and purchase decisions."

The claim also said Douez is seeking judgment to order Facebook to obtain users' written consent in using their portraits or names in advertising, plus damages for "outrageous, wanton, reckless, callous, disgraceful, willful" disregard for its users' right to control the use of their names and likenesses.

Section 3(2) of the Privacy Act reads: "It is a tort, actionable without proof of damage, for a person to use the name or portrait of another for the purpose of advertising or promoting the sale of, or other trading in, property or services, unless that other, or a person entitled to consent on his or her behalf, consents to the use for that purpose."