The Small-Business Owner's Guide to Advertising Injury

Chapter 2: What Counts As Advertising Injury?
Part 3: Third-Party Disclosure

Third parties can be held liable for the public disclosure of an individual's private information without the individual's consent. That may seem like an easy situation to avoid, but a social media site's terms of service and privacy policy can blur the lines between legal and illegal disclosure.

Lane v. Facebook, a class-action lawsuit, is a good example of this. Back in 2011, Facebook's Beacon program updated users' profiles when they shopped or visited websites that contracted with Facebook. The case involved lead plaintiff Sean Lane, who had bought a ring for his wife on Immediately, the purchase was broadcast to his network of 700+ friends without his knowledge or approval.

The defendants argued that Facebook never asked for their permission to broadcast their "outside web activities" across Facebook, which the defendants claimed violated various privacy rights statutes.

The judge remarked that the program caused users embarrassment and damages to employment, business, or personal relationships, noting that many people shop online to increase their privacy. The case settled for $9.5 million.

It's a case worth heeding if your business acquires information about individual purchasing behaviors. Unless you have explicit permission to broadcast the findings, keep them confidential.

Next: Part 4: Invasion of Privacy

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