A petition for approval of a class action suit has been filed Recently against Facebook for a total of half a billion shekels, claiming that the company is breaching its users’ right of privacy, as well as of those who are not its users.

According to the petition, Facebook has created a huge and unlawful database about the citizens of the State of Israel, and this without consent and contrary to law. In practice, thus it is claimed, Facebook has created a vast biometric database, which contrary to the State biometric database is not under the supervision of any entity, apart from the social network itself.

Last February Avraham Barak, by means of attorneys Yitzhak Aviram, Shachar Ben Meir and Maor Brosh, approached the District Central Court with a petition to approve the filing of a class action suit against the global company Facebook and Facebook Israel. "In George Orwell’s 1984", it states in the preface to the petition, "the image of the eye of the Big Brother following you created control in the dark world described there. Here, in an ironic reversal of reality, your pictures, mine and those of our children have become in the hands of Facebook transferrable currency for commerce and grants it the supreme right which it has never been given of being the "Big Brother".

The claim at the core of the suit is "that no other person can be forced to publish his photographs and publish information about him in any way whatsoever without receiving his explicit and informed consent in advance". The Plaintiff Barak claims that Facebook is not really a social network, but rather "a system of daylight robbery of the personal information of all its users and others, in order to make commercial use of it for financial gain".

The fact that Facebook keeps a database of photographs of Israelis, including information as to the date they were taken and their location, and also operates a biometric software for identification of those photographed, constitutes "harassment, surveillance and detection, unlawful creation and use of a database and massive harm to privacy", thus it is claimed.

According to the suit, in the past decade Facebook has integrated a software for identification of photographs and "a technology enabling it to identify the face of any individual automatically". In recent years, thus it is claimed, Facebook itself also started to tag the individuals who appear in the photographs that are uploaded onto the social network, thus their names are attached to the photographs and shall be linked to them.

In this context it shall be recalled that in Germany Facebook was forced to delete the options of identification of photographs, and this in the light of restrictions of the laws of privacy in that country. "Thus it is making unlawful use of the huge database (which is also unlawful) which it created and which it holds in its possession, use that to date only governments and intelligence agencies could implement", it is claimed in the suit.

Thereafter Barak claims that Facebook also has a technology enabling it to identify objects appearing in the photographs and thus to accumulate more and more information about the individuals photographed in them. "Facebook wants to know everything about every individual and every user", thus it is claimed, and this so that the company shall be able to offer focussed advertisements for each individual pursuant to his fields of interests, his location and his daily activities.

"The Legislator well understood that the existence of an unsupervised and non-organized database, and the existence of a biometric database in private hands is a disaster not only as to the existence of privacy but to the existence of a free society", it is claimed in the suit.

"However Facebook thinks, behaves and acts as it is above the law. It assumes that for its financial gain it is allowed to relate to the the privacy and freedom of citizens of the State of Israel (and not only Facebook users) as something trivial and marginal which should not be taken into account en route to the most exalted and supreme objective existing worldwide – according to Facebook: making a profit".

Inter alia it is claimed in the suit that Facebook transfers information that it has collected in the State of Israel to outside of the country’s borders, and this contrary to the regulations of protection of privacy; that Facebook publishes photographs of children, contrary to law; and that Facebook misleads its consumers, utilizes its power as a monopoly, and does all of this out of greed.

The Plaintiff Barak is requesting, apart from compensation of 2,000 NIS for each of those injured by the network and a total compensation of half a billion shekels, also several injunctions that shall force Facebook to abstain from publishing, from this point onwards, a photograph of an individual without his consent, shall force the company to delete the photographs and details of the photographs that have been saved on its database apart from in the case that those photographed have agreed to their publication; and an order that shall command "absolute elimination of the biometric database".


This Article was first published on The Seventh Eye. Read it in Hebrew here. To read the petition for approval of a class action suit click here (Hebrew)