Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) is being sued for using a man’s profile to advertise USA Today by showing his friends that he ‘liked’ an article that the man claims he never even read, reports Jeff John Roberts for GigaOM. The lawsuit cites a California law that lets people sue for $750 (or actual damages, if they are higher) if their image is used without consent, among other state and federal privacy laws.


“Although PLAINTIFF has nothing negative to say about USA TODAY newspapers, PLAINTIFF is not an avid reader of USA TODAY, nor does PLAINTIFF endorse the newspaper,” says the complaint.

Sponsored Stories being replaced with social context

Earlier this year Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) settled a class action lawsuit over its Sponsored Stories ads for $20 million with the promise to give users the right to opt out of the program. The program used people’s Likes to advertise products without their consent. Now Facebook is ending Sponsored Stories in favor of something it calls ‘social context.’ Instead of limiting themselves to Likes, Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) will now use all types of activity on its site for advertising purposes. And if the lawsuit is true, it will invent activity that doesn’t exist when necessary.

Facebook exploit generates fake ‘Likes’

This lawsuit comes less than two weeks after it came out that Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) is scanning people’s private messages to increase the Like count on web pages. The Wall Street Journal picked up on this after hackers realized they could use this fact as an exploit to artificially pump a website’s Likes (basically just bouncing messages with the link between two dummy accounts). Even if scanning isn’t quite the same as reading people’s messages, Facebook is clearly charging ahead with the notion that every aspects of its users’ lives can be commoditized and used for advertising, even as they get sued for doing so.

The motivation behind the exploit itself is interesting. Like search engine optimization, which plays with Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG)’s Page Rank to push websites to the top of search results artificially, generating thousands of Likes for a product that no one has heard of gives the impression of widespread popularity to potential customers. Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) doesn’t seem to care much right now, but if it wants the Likes to mean something in the future it will need to do a better job of making sure that neither they nor internet marketers are pulling them out of thin air.