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Facebook sued over minors’ ‘likes’

Site’s social ads at heart of dispute

By Thom Weidlich
Bloomberg News / May 3, 2011

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NEW YORK — Facebook Inc., the social-networking site, has been sued for not getting permission to display that minors “like’’ Facebook advertisers’ products.

The lawsuit seeks class-action status on behalf of Facebook users in New York state under the age of 18 who had “their names or likenesses used on a Facebook feed or in an advertisement sold by Facebook Inc. without the consent of their parent or guardian.’’

The suit was filed in federal court in Brooklyn yesterday.

Facebook began offering “social ads,’’ which display the names and likenesses of users’ Facebook friends who click on the ads’ “like’’ button, in 2007, according to the complaint. The names or likenesses are also displayed to friends when a user RSVPs for an advertised event, it said. The endorsements also show up on Facebook friends’ home-page feeds.

“Users can prevent their endorsements from being shared with their friends by limiting who can see their posts through their privacy settings,’’ according to the complaint. “There is, however, no mechanism in place by which a user can prevent their name and likeness from appearing on a Facebook page if they have ‘liked’ it.’’

The suit was filed by Justin Nastro, a minor in Brooklyn, through his father, Frank Nastro. Facebook does not seek parents’ permission for the minor users’ endorsements, according to the complaint.

The suit invokes the New York Civil Rights Law, which prevents using a person’s picture for advertising without that person’s permission. The suit seeks revenue Facebook derived from the unauthorized commercial use of names and images.

Facebook declined to comment, saying it had not received the complaint.