A class-action lawsuit has been filed against Facebook and other sites for their participation in Facebook’s Beacon program.
The controversial program, which turned into a publicity disaster that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg apologized for, alerted a user’s friends about their activity on other sites, for example buying movie tickets on Fandago. Beacon sparked an outcry from Facebook users, who saw it as a violation of privacy and complained that it was difficult to opt out.
In addition to apologizing, Facebook revamped the program so users weren’t automatically signed up, and instead could choose to opt-in. The backlash was also a bit of a turning point for social networks, since it illustrated that it’s a delicate balancing act to make money from the “social graph” without angering users. But that seemed to be the end of the matter, and users moved on to complaining about new things like Facebook’s revamped design.
Now a group of users is demanding that Facebook delete any data collected from the program, award restitution and return any money earned in violation of privacy laws. The suit alleges that tens of thousands of users are affected, and also names Blockbuster, Fandango, Overstock, Hotwire, STA Travel, Zappos and Gamefly as defendants.
Earlier this year, a Texas woman filed suit against Blockbuster for its participation.
I can’t really say how strong this case is from a legal perspective. But even if, as I suspect, it won’t have a leg to stand on, these continuing lawsuits can’t be good news for Facebook or any social network thinking about trying something similar.
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