Week Adjourned: 9.11.15 – Facebook, E-Cigarettes, RV Refrigerators

facebook logoTop Class Action Lawsuits

Is Facebook Big Brother in Disguise? Maybe….A federal privacy class action lawsuit against Facebook has been filed by a man who is not a Facebook user alleges the ubiquitous social media site violates the law in the same manner as Big Brother would. How, you ask? By collecting facial recognition data from user-uploaded photos without first notifying and receiving informed written consent from the people in the photos, both users and “unwitting” non-users of the site.

Specifically, Illinois resident Frederick Gullen contends that Facebook has stored over a billion templates of faces, which can uniquely identify a person in the same way a fingerprint or voiceprint does. However, the site fails to provide a publicly available policy of its guidelines for retaining and destroying non-users’ public information, according to the lawsuit.

In 2010, FB released its tagging feature, which works by scanning for faces in user-uploaded photos. It then extracts geometric data from each face, which is used to create a template of that face, “[u]nbeknownst to the average consumer,” according to Gullen.

“If no match is found, the user is prompted to ‘tag’ (i.e., identify by name) a person to that face, at which point the face template and corresponding name identification are saved in Facebook’s face database,” Gullen states. “However, if a face template is generated that matches a face template already in Facebook’s face database, then Facebook suggests that the user ‘tag’ to that face the name already associated with that face.”

The lawsuit contends that there could be tens of thousands of Illinois residents who aren’t Facebook users who but have had their photos uploaded to the social network.

According to the lawsuit, in May Gullen was “tagged” in a photo uploaded to Facebook by someone else without his permission. The template created from his facial features was also used by Facebook to recognize his gender, age, race and location.

Think all this is paranoid? Well, Google your image—you may be surprised at what comes up.

The lawsuit seeks to represent a class of Illinois residents who aren’t Facebook users but have been tagged in photos on Facebook.The case is Gullen v. Facebook Inc., case number 1:15-cv-07681 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

E-Cigarettes are Bad for You? Apparently, yes they are, according to a consumer fraud class action lawsuit brought against RJ Reynolds Vapor this week. The lawsuit claims the company’s electronic cigarettes contain carcinogens, which consumers were not warned about. Yes, that would make sense.

According to the e-cigarette lawsuit, filed by named plaintiff Jerod Harris, the manufacturer markets Vuse electronic cigarettes in a way that fails to inform customers of the potential health risks incurred by using the products, specifically, inhalation of the carcinogens formaldehyde and acetaldehyde. This violates California state consumer protection and unfair competition laws.

The lawsuit contends that RJ Reynolds began selling e-cigarettes in California during a time when consumers believed the product to be a healthy alternative to traditional cigarettes. This was because e-cigarettes contain nicotine but no carcinogens, they believed. However, RJ Reynolds knew this was not true, Harris claims in the lawsuit.

“Defendant knew of this public misperception regarding the true nature of e-cigarettes, yet introduced the products without disclosing the carcinogenic exposures resulting from ordinary use thereof,” the complaint states.

E-cigarettes are battery-operated products. They work by converting nicotine and other chemicals into an aerosol which is inhaled. According to Harris, consumers incorrectly believe that they are only inhaling water vapor, not aerosol. The suit cites a study and independent testing that shows aerosol contains cancer-causing formaldehyde and acetaldehyde.

The lawsuit also asserts that contrary to the marketing of e-cigarettes, which suggest they are a safer alternative than traditional cigarette, there are several studies which show they pose health risks to users and have adverse effects on the health safety of children and teenagers.

The lawsuit accuses RJ Vapors of violating California’s Unfair Competition Law and the California Consumers Legal Remedies Act by omitting the fact that the e-cigarettes expose users to carcinogenic chemicals.

The lawsuit seeks to represent a class of all California residents that purchased Vuse products from July 1, 2013, to the present. The case is Harris v. R.J. Reynolds Vapor Co., case number 3:15-cv-04075, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Top Settlements

They’ll be Driving Checks to the Bank…to the tune of $36 million—that’s the proposed settlement amount in a defective products class action lawsuit pending against Dyson-Kissner-Moran Corp, and two of its subsidiaries, who manufacture boat fridges.

In 2012, a lawsuit was filed alleging fridges intended for use in motor homes and boats (N1200, N6 and N8 models) had a defect that caused them to corrode, overheat and occasionally catch fire. That’s handy. A fridge that not only keeps food—it cooks it too. Nice touch.

Under the terms of the proposed settlement, the companies would pay $11 million a year for three years, with $3 million added in the third year.

Ok – That’s a wrap folks…Happy Labor Day – See you at the Bar!

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