Facebook accused of violating privacy laws

By Chuck Miller

June 18, 2010 Updated Aug 19, 2009 at 12:31 PM EDT

In a California lawsuit, the popular social networking site Facebook has been accused of violating state privacy laws and seeking to “disseminate private information to third-parties for commercial purposes,” according to a complaint filed in Orange County Superior Court. The suit, which has raised controversy among some industry observers, was initiated because “Facebook has misled users” via policies that imply users have control over their personal data, according to the complaint. “Facebook has also misled Facebook users and the public by representing that the governance of Facebook and policy changes are a democratic process dependent on users' comments, input and consent,” the complaint alleged.Lawyers for the plaintiffs, among who are two children, an actress and a photographer, asked for a jury trial, unspecified damages and attorney's fees.The complaint said that Facebook “…should have known that their systemic personal and private data collection … violated state consumer protection, privacy, and right of publicity laws.”As to the controversy, the lawsuit has been labeled as poorly framed and scattered in its intent, being little more than a laundry list of unrelated privacy issues.“There have been plenty of complaints about Facebook, and there have been other lawsuits against Facebook that are much more serious challenges than this,” Eric Goldman, director of the High Tech Law Institute at the University of Santa Clara School of Law, told SCMagazineUS.com on Tuesday. “This one didn't do a good job of telling us what the problem was.”Barry Snitt, director of corporate communications and public policy at Facebook, told SCMagazineUS.com in an email Tuesday, “We see no merit to this suit and plan to fight it.”Facebook has seen other privacy controversies. At the beginning of this year, an uproar by its users caused the site to change a policy because of concerns that personal content posted on the site – including artwork and intellectual content – would become the property of the site.

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