Facebook is no stranger to legal challenges over its privacy practices. However, these court battles usually take place in European countries with stricter privacy regulations than the U.S. But the fight came closer to home last week when the Canadian Supreme Court gave the go-ahead to a class-action suit against the site.
The suit was launched in 2012 on behalf of up to 1.8 million users accusing the site of using a woman’s name and image without her permission in Sponsored Stories content. The Court issued a 4-3 ruling in the woman’s favor, noting the “gross inequality of bargaining power” between Facebook and its users. By allowing the suit to continue, the Court is effectively agreeing with the plaintiffs that Facebook can’t ask them to sign over their rights so easily.
“It provides the clearest recognition to date that the court’s pretty uncomfortable with the imbalance that exists with the myriad of online contracts we sign up for,” University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist told The Globe and Mail. “Millions of Canadians click ‘I agree,’ and sometimes they’re not even asked to click, for dozens or hundreds of contracts. The court explicitly recognized that these are non-negotiated contracts. They’re all take it or leave it.”
Facebook is pretty open about the fact it wants more user data — but the site may need to reassess its position if it keeps getting taken to court.