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Facebook wins appeal to stop B.C. class action lawsuit over privacy

06/19/2015 07:28 EDT | Updated 06/19/2016 05:59 EDT
The B.C. Court of Appeal has sided with Facebook, ending a class action lawsuit launched by a Vancouver woman, who claimed the social media giant was violating users' privacy by using their photos in paid ads — without their consent.

Videographer Debbie Douez sued Facebook saying its now-defunct "Sponsored Stories" program manipulated users for commercial gain.

But in a unanimous decision Friday, the appeal court didn't rule on the heart of the matter: whether Facebook broke B.C. privacy law.

Instead, the court decided B.C. law doesn't apply to the California company, due to a clause in Facebook's Terms of Use — which every user must agree to, whether they read it or not.

'I agree with Facebook'

Three years ago, after Facebook started the "Sponsored Stories" program, Douez had hit the "like" button on a couple of businesses, because it was the only way to get more information about them.

Soon, she found her name and photo popping up in her friends' news feeds, in ads paid for by the companies — as though she had endorsed them.

Douez argued that was a violation of the B.C. Privacy Act, which says no one can use the name or portrait of another person for advertising or promotion without their consent.

A B.C. Supreme Court judge certified her lawsuit last year, based on a section of the Act that says "an action under this Act must be heard and determined by the Supreme Court."

But Facebook argued its Terms of Use said all claims and disputes must be dealt with in Santa Clara County, Calif.

"I agree with Facebook," wrote Chief Justice Robert Bauman in the unanimous appeal court decision released Friday.

"The B.C. Supreme Court has jurisdiction to the exclusion only of other courts in B.C., not other courts worldwide."

The ruling puts an end to the B.C. class action case, though Bauman notes, "Ms. Douez is at liberty to bring her action in California."

Read Court of Appeal decision

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