Handing Facebook a decisive win, a judge has dismissed a lawsuit alleging that the company's efforts to promote Friend Finder misappropriated users' names.
U.S. District Court Judge Richard Seeborg agreed with Facebook that the people who sued weren't injured by the company's ads for Friend Finder, a tool that suggests friends for people based on their email contacts.
"This is not a situation where the defendant is alleged to have publicized the plaintiffs' names or likenesses to any audience or in any context where they did not already appear," Seeborg wrote Thursday in an order dismissing the case. "Rather, the names and likenesses were merely displayed on the pages of other users who were already plaintiffs' Facebook 'friends' and who would regularly see, or at least have access to, those names and likenesses in the ordinary course of using their Facebook accounts."
The dismissal was "with prejudice," meaning that the users can't amend their papers and try again.
Seeborg's ruling stemmed from a lawsuit alleging that Facebook violates a California law banning companies from using names or photos in ads without people's consent.
Facebook's Friend Finder searches people's email contacts to determine which ones are on Facebook and then suggests them as friends. The users didn't complain about the feature itself. Rather, they alleged that Facebook wrongly promotes the tool by displaying members' names and photos in ads to their friends. The ads say that the members found other friends by using the feature, and suggests that people "give it a try."
Even though the California law provides for $750 damages per violation, Seeborg ruled that users still must have suffered some type of harm before proceeding with a lawsuit. "The fact that the California Legislature has provided for statutory damages in the amount of $750 for a individual who is unable to quantify the amount of damages suffered does not eliminate the requirement of a cognizable injury in the first instance," he wrote.