Five Facebook users have filed a civil lawsuit alleging that the social networking site is violating California’s privacy laws and misleading members about how their personal information is used.
The lawsuit, filed in Orange County Superior Court, asks for damages and attorney’s fees and includes a request for a jury trial.
Facebook spokesman Barry Schnitt declined to comment on the specifics of the lawsuit.
“We see no merit to this suit and we plan to fight it,” he said in an e-mailed statement.
The complaint alleges that Facebook violates California privacy and online privacy laws by disseminating personal information posted by users to third parties. The lawsuit also alleges that Facebook engages in data mining and harvesting without fully disclosing those practices to its members.
It was filed on behalf of several individuals, including a professional photographer, two children under age 13, a user of the original Facebook and a Los Angeles-based actress and model.
Privacy concerns have been a thorny issue for Facebook, which has grown to more than 200 million users.
The Palo Alto, California-based company announced earlier this year it was tweaking its privacy controls and giving users a hand in determining various policies after tens of thousands of members protested over who controls the information they share on the site. The social networking site said in February it would allow users to review, comment and vote on changes to privacy, ownership and sharing before they are put into place.
And in late 2007, a tracking tool called “Beacon” caught Facebook users off-guard by broadcasting information about their activities at other Web sites, including their purchase of holiday gifts for those who could see the information. The company ultimately allowed users to turn Beacon off.
Calls and e-mails to the attorney representing the plaintiffs in the case were not returned.
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