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Users file privacy lawsuit against Facebook

Complaint alleges that the social-networking site is violating California consumer privacy laws by disseminating private information to third parties for commercial purposes.

Steven Musil Night Editor / News
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Steven Musil
2 min read

A group of Facebook users filed a civil lawsuit Monday that alleges the social-networking site is violating California consumer privacy laws.

The lawsuit, which was filed in California's Orange County Superior Court on behalf of five users, seeks a jury trial, as well as damages and attorneys' fees. The five plaintiffs are described as two children younger than 13, a user of the original Facebook, a professional photographer, and an actress and model.

The 40-page complaint accuses the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company of violating California privacy and online privacy laws by disseminating private information to third parties for commercial purposes.

"Plaintiffs and the general public desire and expect a level of privacy, which Facebook has failed to satisfy under its current policies, procedures, practices, and technology," the complaint states.

A Facebook spokesman declined to comment on the specifics of the lawsuit other than to say, "We see no merit to this suit and we plan to fight it."

The plaintiffs' attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Facebook is no stranger to privacy controversy. In July, an investigation by Canada's privacy commissioner suggested Facebook is unconcerned with members' privacy and called on it to do more. Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart expressed concern that while it's easy for members to deactivate their accounts, it's less clear on how to actually delete them. Facebook could therefore retain member data from deactivated accounts for an indefinite period of time in violation of Canadian privacy law.

The social network went through a user backlash over the introduction of its News Feed in 2006, and a bigger one over the controversial Beacon advertising program. More recently, a revision to Facebook's terms of use prompted consumer advocacy blog The Consumerist to highlight language that it said meant that Facebook claimed ownership of user profile data and photos.