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Helen Popkin
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msnbc.com
updated 8/19/2009 9:04:50 AM ET 2009-08-19T13:04:50

Turns out, Facebook is not your secret diary. If you put your stuff online and invite other people to look at it, other people might do just that. Still, don’t let that stop you from seeking damages.

It certainly isn’t slowing the five plaintiffs in yet another privacy lawsuit filed against the social networking giant. Filed earlier this week in California, this lawsuit demands a jury trial and money for a bunch of privacy-related complaints.

The plaintiffs range from an 11-year-old (whose parents are totally freaked over possible abuse of the kid’s “swine flu. Pray for me” status) to an actress whose career may be in peril over Facebook’s wanton dissemination of her digital images.

Technology news blog TechCrunch, so kind to link the entire wacky 40-page complaint, pointed to the incongruity of engaging in social networking, then bellyaching about violated privacy and other assumed “rights.” (And you know what happens when we assume!)

“It’s sort of like jumping into a pool and then complaining that you’re wet,” wrote TechCrunch’s Jason Kincaid. Arguably, an understatement.

Frankly kids, suing Facebook for violating your privacy is like going to a kegger at the Devil’s house, then waking up on the front lawn the next day hung over, naked, missing your soul ...and surprised.

“Facebook has a long and tortured history of attempting highly targeted advertising by mining data and usage habits from users,” wrote Bob Sullivan in his msnbc.com blog Red Tape Chronicles.

What, you didn’t know that?

10 smart phone tips for dumb people

This Mulligan’s Stew of a lawsuit is just the latest legal lump tossed at Facebook regarding its use of user information, and the tie-in to questionable marketing deals.

Perhaps you’re one of the many who jumped on the non-boycott bandwagon earlier and joined a Facebook petition group to protest the unannounced changes to its Terms of Service regarding what Facebook felt entitled to do with your stuff.

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If you’re a Facebook user who also happens to be an elephant, perhaps you’ll recall the Beacon debacle of 2007 in which Facebook tracked your purchases on partnered sites and shared those purchases with your Facebook friends via your newsfeed.

What’s more, Facebook’s “tortured history” referenced above comes from Sullivan’s recent Red Tape about a husband surprised to see his wife’s photo offered up via a third-party Facebook ad as an example of one of the “Hot singles waiting for you!”

Sullivan followed up with the company and got some blather about a rogue third-party company blah, blah, blah … but the facts are these: You have to actually opt in to your privacy settings if you want to limit this sort of nonsense from happening. (Though to be fair, that particular incident is pretty funny.)

That’s right, you are responsible for where you choose to put your personal information.

Not that it’s easy. Even if you do figure out how to toggle that hard-to-find privacy switch, try navigating the legalese doublespeak and figure out just how and when your stuff is going to get used. We’ll wait.

Actually, no we won’t. We’re bored. While studies say Americans care about Internet privacy, when’s the last time you read the Terms of Service agreement on anything … on a social network, Amazon or eHarmony? Most people just don’t. For all those online groups demanding Facebook privacy rights last year, how many actually quit using the site out of protest? It’s not like we all hit up LinkedIn to form our Facebook petition groups.

Instead of suing, the good-natured wife in Sullivan’s post — the one pimped out to her own husband as a hot single — called it the price of participating in “free” Internet sites. Picture-perfect wife, who works in social media herself, may be a bit more realistic (i.e. sane) than the five plaintiffs. Most notably, she’s not looking to sue.

Meanwhile, the lawsuit against Facebook is so bold as to declare that the company “has created a business model and apparatus designed to harvest as much personal and private information as possible in (the) easiest, quickest, and most innocuous-looking manner possible.”

To read the 40-page complaint, one might be drawn to conclude that countless users are fiendlishly tricked daily — if not hourly — into updating their Facebook profiles, allowing who knows who access to the most intimate 25 random things people don’t know about them and more.

“What?!” you demand. “When I posted my five favorite albums of all time, I wasn’t expecting other people to see my Five Favorite Albums of All Time. I would have NEVER admitted to enjoying Glass Tiger, had I known all my friends to know …”

Hey, I feel you.

Had I known that I’d score less than stellar on that “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” trivia quiz, and that my alleged BFF Ree Hines would see my humbling score that I posted on my Facebook Wall and then go on to take it herself, after which she would lord her own perfect grade over me, again on my own Facebook Wall, where all my other friends would see my shame, I would’ve contracted a lawyer ages ago.

Alas, I fear the statute of limitations has long since passed.

Harvest Helen A.S. Popkin's personal and private information on Facebook ... or follow the abridged version Twitter.

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