Facebook celebrates its 10 year birthday this month, albeit, in the shadow of a lawsuit brought on by parents who believe their children’s privacy was violated. A lawsuit was already filed and a settlement was reached, however, a group of parents, along with child and privacy advocacy groups, want to have that settlement thrown out and reopen the case against Facebook.
Facebook had agreed two years ago to change its policies toward using member’s images in advertisement’s and pay $20 million in fines and charitable contributions. The class action lawsuit was filed due to privacy issues since the images were being used without permission of the member. When a member “liked” a product or service their image could be used to promote it, these members included children. The ad then may appear in the news feed stating that the pictured member endorses that business or service. Basically, the member has just been in a commercial without consent. This had parents in an uproar claiming their children were being exploited which brought about the class action lawsuit in 2012.
Even though the parents and privacy groups technically won, they feel that there are some major loopholes in the first judgment and they want it thrown out for a new one. The terms in the first settlement allowed Facebook to continue using children’s images in their advertisements, however, Facebook did have to state that any person under 18 years of age “represents” that their parent or guardian agrees to let Facebook use that member’s image in ads. Some argue that this now gives Facebook legal backing to use children’s images in their ads and now they have the legal language to protect themselves.
There is a growing concern among experts and the general public alike about social media and the use of a member’s information for marketing purposes. Some members who have signed up for free programs like Facebook feel like it’s a bait and switch program, they entice you with free membership but the true cost is having your privacy violated by being used in ads. Google also recently announced that they would begin using user data in banner ads to be displayed on thousands of websites that Google is partnered with. However, Google has expressed that it will not use the image of a minor.
Public interest groups say that people use Facebook and Google because they are a free service and most people have no idea that the sites will use their personal information and data for marketing purposes. Some of these public interest groups are also accusing the internet titans of changing their terms of service contracts all too frequently and often unannounced.
A spokeswoman for Facebook, Jodi Seth, said that the 2012 court approved appeal provides “substantial benefits” to everyone that uses the site and that it “goes beyond” what any other company has done to give its users full visibility and control over how their information is used by the site. She also said that these new concerns have already been raised in several state courts this year and have been rejected by the judges in each one.
All users of Facebook, young and old, share concern about their information being used without their permission and although Facebook may be in some trouble with parents again over their children’s images being used in ads it appears that they have a legal leg to stand on this time.
By Adam Stier