Why I am Suing Facebook

As you may or may not know, I have always been an early adopter of new technology, especially just about anything online. And social media is no exception. In fact, in the past, I have been a power user over at tons of social media sites in the past, including many that have been taken down, bought out, and even some that still exist–along with some that are just getting started.

I have also been a big adopter and encourager of online privacy. If you want your online privacy, you should be able to control it. Well, it turns out that Facebook was allowing someone to use my image and likeness as part of a sponsored story–without my permission. That’s why I’m suing Facebook. That’s right, I’m suing Facebook because of it.

Well, kind of.

I’m part of a class action lawsuit that’s suing Facebook over the fact that your image or likeness was used without your permission as part of a sponsored story:

A class action lawsuit against Facebook, Inc. (“Facebook”) claimed that Facebook unlawfully used Class Members’ names, profile pictures, photographs, likenesses, and identities to advertise or sell products and services through Sponsored Stories, without obtaining Class Members’ consent.

You, too, might have received this notice from the court, telling you that you’re a member of this class action lawsuit against Facebook. I’m not the only one. Apparently Joel Comm also got the notice.

Here’s the notice that I received, and that I’m now a part of–I’ve filled our the form to be a member of the class.

You are receiving this e-mail because you may have been featured in a “Sponsored Story” on Facebook prior to December 3, 2012.

A federal court authorized this Notice. This is not a solicitation from a lawyer.

Why did I get this notice? This Notice relates to a proposed settlement (“Settlement”) of a class action lawsuit (“Action”) filed against Facebook relating to a particular Facebook feature called “Sponsored Stories.” According to available records, you may be a “Class Member.”

What is the Action about? The Action claims that Facebook unlawfully used the names, profile pictures, photographs, likenesses, and identities of Facebook users in the United States to advertise or sell products and services through Sponsored Stories without obtaining those users’ consent. Facebook denies any wrongdoing and any liability whatsoever. No court or other entity has made any judgment or other determination of any liability.

What is a Sponsored Story? Sponsored Stories are a form of advertising that typically contains posts which appeared on facebook.com about or from a Facebook user or entity that a business, organization, or individual has paid to promote so there is a better chance that the posts will be seen by the user or entity’s chosen audience. Sponsored Stories may be displayed, for example, when a Facebook user interacts with the Facebook service (including sub-domains, international versions, widgets, plug-ins, platform applications or games, and mobile applications) in certain ways, such as by clicking on the Facebook “Like” button on a business’s, organization’s, or individual’s Facebook page. Sponsored Stories typically include a display of a Facebook user’s Facebook name (i.e., the name the user has associated with his or her Facebook account) and/or profile picture (if the user has uploaded one) with a statement describing the user’s interaction with the Facebook service, such as “John Smith likes UNICEF,” “John Smith played Farmville,” or “John Smith shared a link.”

What relief does the Settlement provide? Facebook will pay $20 million into a fund that can be used, in part, to pay claims of Class Members (including Minor Class Members) who appeared in a Sponsored Story. Each participating Class Member who submits a valid and timely claim form may be eligible to receive up to $10. The amount, if any, paid to each claimant depends upon the number of claims made and other factors detailed in the Settlement. No one knows in advance how much each claimant will receive, or whether any money will be paid directly to claimants. If the number of claims made renders it economically infeasible to pay money to persons who make a timely and valid claim, payment will be made to the not-for-profit organizations identified on the Settlement website at www.fraleyfacebooksettlement.com (if clicking on the link does not work, copy and paste the website address into a web browser). These organizations are involved in educational outreach that teaches adults and children how to use social media technologies safely, or are involved in research of social media, with a focus on critical thinking around advertising and commercialization, and particularly with protecting the interests of children.

In addition to monetary relief, Facebook will (a) revise its terms of service (known as the “Statement of Rights and Responsibilities” or “SRR”) to more fully explain the instances in which users agree to the display of their names and profile pictures in connection with Sponsored Stories; (b) create an easily accessible mechanism that enables users to view, on a going-forward basis, the subset of their interactions and other content on Facebook that have been displayed in Sponsored Stories (if any); (c) develop settings that will allow users to prevent particular items or categories of content or information related to them from being displayed in future Sponsored Stories; (d) revise its SRR to confirm that minors represent that their parent or legal guardian consents to the use of the minor’s name and profile picture in connection with commercial, sponsored, or related content; (e) provide parents and legal guardians with additional information about how advertising works on Facebook in its Family Safety Center and provide parents and legal guardians with additional tools to control whether their children’s names and profile pictures are displayed in connection with Sponsored Stories; and (f) add a control in minor users’ profiles that enables each minor user to indicate that his or her parents are not Facebook users and, where a minor user indicates that his or her parents are not on Facebook, Facebook will make the minor ineligible to appear in Sponsored Stories until he or she reaches the age of 18, until the minor changes his or her setting to indicate that his or her parents are on Facebook, or until a confirmed parental relationship with the minor user is established.

suing facebook

Your Class Member Number: XXXXXXXXXX
To Parents and Guardians of Children on Facebook: The Settlement also involves the claims of minors featured in Sponsored Stories on Facebook. Please see the Settlement website for more information.

More information? For more information about the Settlement and how to take the actions described above, please visit www.fraleyfacebooksettlement.com (if clicking on the link does not work, copy and paste the website address into a web browser) or write to the Settlement Administrator at Fraley v. Facebook, Inc., Settlement, c/o GCG, P.O. Box 35009, Seattle, WA 98124-1009, or GCG@fraleyfacebooksettlement.com. You may also contact Class Counsel, Robert S. Arns of the Arns Law Firm, by calling 1-888-214-5125 or by emailing fb.settlement@arnslaw.com.

So, why am I suing Facebook? Why am I making sure that I’m a part of this class action lawsuit? Well, Facebook used my image and likeness as part of an ad–and they did it without my permission and they didn’t pay me for it.

Oh yeah, I totally forgot–it looks like my image and likeness as part of a sponsored story on Facebook is only worth $10.


  1. Chuck Bartok says

    I passed.
    If anyone cares about privacy they should stay the heck off the internet.
    My businesses would have never succeeded if my name, face and phone number was not public domain for the past 50 years.
    Some have even been nice enough to photoshop my face to make it look better.
    You can use my pictures and I hope others benefit.
    Life has blessed us and our colleagues who follow the same principles.
    Enjoy the short time we have on this earth and share the Abundance.

  2. Roni Mmi says

    thanks for your informative post. seo is very importact fact now a days. even i do facebook advertising…but still search engine optimization always play a critical role.

  3. says

    Chuck Bartok, I’m not sure you completely understand the reason why this class action lawsuit exists. It’s not just about having your image and likeness show up on the web or show up on Facebook for that matter.

    The issue at hand is that Facebook allowed my image and likeness to be part of an ADVERTISEMENT, saying I endorse or use a certain product or service. My image and likeness was used as part of an ad.

    If some company used a photo of your on a billboard along a busy highway and it made it look like you were endorsing that product or service–and the company didn’t have your permission, then you would be upset. What if a company used your photo as part of a male enhancement product without your permission? That’s what we’re talking about here.

    It’s not that your photo appeared somewhare–it’s about a company, Facebook, allowing your photo to be used as part of an ad–without your permission.

    There are rules in place, mainly model releases and modeling contracts, that have to be signed when you use someone as part of an advertisement. This was NOT done in this case. The parties responsible for the advertisements and sponsored stories used someone’s photo without their consent.

  4. Ashley Baxter says

    I got the same notice but did respond. It was shocking to me that the total reimbursement amount was only $10 a person. Imagine the profit that FB made by illegally licensing your photo to be used for ads. Yet the personal damages were considered to be so miniscule.

  5. Casie says

    Thanks for posting this Bill. I got that email and just assumed it was spam. When it came out they were doing this, I immediately went in and changed my settings but for people who don’t spend all day on the internet and don’t know what’s happening (aka my mom) they would never know their image was being used or to change their settings.

    I get that many of the social networks are still figuring things out when it comes to advertising and monetization but I have a hard time imagining that no one at Facebook thought using people’s images in ads was a bad idea.