Privacy Lawsuit Over Facebook Like Ads Can Proceed

By David Cohen Comment

The issue of Facebook using its members’ likenesses in advertising returned to center stage with a ruling by a court in California that a class-action suit against the social network can proceed.

Bloomberg reported that U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose rejected Facebook’s bid for dismissal of the suit Friday, ruling that the social network’s use of members’ images in targeted advertising and sponsored stories may run afoul of California’s Right of Publicity Statute, which prohibits the non-consensual use of another person’s name, voice, signature, photograph, or likeness for advertising purposes.

Facebook had tried to have the lawsuit dismissed on the grounds that the users’ endorsement had no economic value, as they were not celebrities, but Koh did not agree.

The ads in question feature an advertiser that a user’s friend has liked, along with the friend’s picture and the statement that the friend liked the advertiser.

In her rejection of the bid for dismissal, Koh quoted Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg:

This is the elusive goal we’ve been searching for, for a long time; making your customers your marketers… 68 percent more people are likely to remember seeing the ad with their friend’s name [and they are] 300 percent more likely to purchase.

California law mandates payments of $750 for wrongful endorsements, but paidContent points out that before Facebook users start spending that money, the plaintiffs must still establish during the trial that they are entitled to the payouts, and only Facebook users in California can benefit due to the state’s more stringent laws and its celebrity-driven economy.

A spokesperson from Facebook told us via email, “We are reviewing the decision and continue to believe that the case is without merit.”

Readers: Where do you stand on this lawsuit?