It was the Privacy Nightmare that Ruined Christmas. Now it’s The PR Nightmare on Facebook Street. Facebook’s ill-fated Beacon experiment has haunted the world’s fastest growing social networking site the ad service’s conception, having been vehemently criticized since its debut last November. Now it’s being taken to court. Facebook’s Beacon-caused PR woes continued Tuesday, as a new class-action lawsuit was filed against them. The suit also names Blockbuster, Fandango, Overstock, Hotwire, STA Travel, Zappos and Gamefly as defendants. The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, alleges that Facebook invaded users’ privacy, gathering and broadcasting their information without


“By the time any user was notified that Facebook was (at a minimum), an observing party to the transaction, and that Facebook was asking for an approval to publicly broadcast identifying information regarding the event, personally identifying information had already been communicated to Facebook,” the suit reads.

The suit also alleges that sites like Blockbuster transmitted purchasers’ information to Facebook, even if they weren’t Facebook members.

Beacon took data from consumer sites like Blockbuster and posted it on Facebook for members’ friends to see. In the beginning, Beacon was an opt-out feature, meaning that users were automatically included in the program. After myriad complaints, Facebook made it easier for users to disable Beacon, but privacy issues still abounded, and it was revealed that data was even being sent when users were logged out of Facebook.

More than 70,000 users signed a MoveOn petition calling for Beacon’s removal, which led to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s public apology. In June, Blockbuster was sued by a Texas woman for its role in the Beacon campaign.

Tuesday’s suit alleges that Facebook and the named companies violated the following laws: the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), the Video Privacy Protection Act (VPPA), as well as California’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act, and Computer Crime Law.

The thirty-two plaintiffs seek restitution of “ill-gotten gains,” as well as the deletion of any private data Facebook has collected.

By Mark Alvarez