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They're not friends: B.C. court approves class-action lawsuit against Facebook

VANCOUVER - Social-media giant Facebook is facing a class-action lawsuit that has been launched by a Vancouver woman over one of the firm's advertising products.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Susan Griffin said in a ruling posted online Friday that enough evidence exists to support allegations made by Louise Douez that the Facebook product titled Sponsored Stories used the names and images of members without their consent.

Griffin also said there's enough evidence to support allegations that the company breached the province's Privacy Act.

"Given the almost infinite life and scope of Internet images and corresponding scale of harm caused by privacy breaches, B.C. residents have a significant interest in maintaining some means of policing privacy violations by multinational Internet or social-media service providers," said Griffin.

Sponsored Stories included the names and images of members, an advertising logo and product information, and the products were sent to other Facebook members, said the judge.

Griffin ruled the class-action will cover B.C. residents who were Facebook members between Jan. 1, 2011 and May 30, 2014, who used their real name or portraits on the website and who were included in the Sponsored Stories.

She said one of the lawsuit's central issues will be whether members consented to having their names or portraits used in advertising products when they agreed to the company's Terms of Use.

Facebook said in an email that Sponsored Stories are no longer available to advertisers.

"This suit has no merit and we intend to pursue an immediate appeal of the court’s procedural rulings," said the company in the email.

Christopher Rhone, legal counsel for Douez, said his client is pleased with the ruling.

"I'm happy because it shows that ... any foreign company can't just come in here and insert itself into British Columbia, the lives of British Columbians, and start making use of their names and portraits," he said.

The judge has suggested the parties arrange another hearing to address how class members will be notified, as well as any changes to the litigation plan.

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