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

The B.C. Court of Appeal has sided with Facebook, ending a class-action lawsuit launched by a Vancouver woman over the social media company's use of her photo in ads.

Vancouver woman Debbie Douez filed a class-action lawsuit after her name and photo were used in a Facebook ad

Last year, Debbie Douez launched a class-action lawsuit claiming Facebook violated her privacy by using one of her 'likes' to promote businesses to her friends. (CBC)

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.

Debbie Douez says unwillingly found herself endorsing Ocean Village Resort in Tofino and Tough Mudders fitness company to all her friends, despite her strict privacy settings. (CBC)

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 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."

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