Facebook User Feels Violated, Sues


A Rhode Island man has sued Facebook for allegedly violating his privacy with the four-week-old "instant personalization" feature, which automatically shares information about users with outside companies.

In papers filed in federal court late last week, East Providence resident Derrick Rose alleges that the launch of instant personalization "violated users' reasonable expectations of privacy."

"Users' private lists of all the persons they want to share information with may be very different from what they may want to share for purposes of social networking through Facebook," Rose alleges. "Nevertheless, Facebook, without user authorization, accessed and made public the users' profile information."

Rose's lawsuit is just the latest headache for Facebook, which has drawn widespread criticism from lawmakers like Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), privacy advocates and tech journalists for recent revisions to its privacy policy.



While Facebook has changed several key privacy settings since December, the launch of instant personalization is especially troubling. That feature automatically shares users' names, photos and other data with three outside companies -- Microsoft Docs, Pandora and Yelp.

Facebook allows users to opt out of the feature, but advocates say it should only operate on an opt-in basis. In addition, even if users opt out of instant personalization, their information can still be shared by their friends unless the users specifically block the three outside companies from accessing the data.

Facebook reportedly intends to simply its privacy settings starting on Wednesday.

The lawsuit by Rose appears to be the first to stem from Facebook's instant personalization, but not the first related to the company's privacy settings. Earlier this year, Facebook was hit with two class-actions alleging that it violated users' privacy with revisions to the site last December. Those cases, now consolidated, are proceeding in federal district court in the northern district of California.

In general, it's hard for plaintiffs to prevail in privacy lawsuits because there usually aren't any monetary damages. But Facebook still could have an incentive to settle the lawsuit to avoid an expensive and potentially embarrassing litigation.

Recently, Facebook agreed to a $10 million settlement of a class-action lawsuit stemming from its 2007 Beacon program, which told members about their friends' purchases. The bulk of that settlement will go toward funding a new privacy think tank.

Facebook did not respond to Online Media Daily's request for comment for this article.

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