Classmates.com Accepts Defeat, Launches Facebook App, Gets Sued in the Process

Service discloses private data without proper agreement

By on March 12th, 2010 15:17 GMT
In the world of social networks, Classmates.com is to Facebook like dinosaurs are to humans. After Facebook practically took its place in the eyes of Internet users as the best place to find old school and college friends, Classmates.com has accepted the fact that is no longer an important competitor on the social market and to keep its service relevant, agreed to launch a Facebook App geared on its user database.

The app named “Classmates Connect” will allow Facebook users to enter their Classmates.com credentials and pull in their friends list from the Classmates.com profile. Additional tabs are included to see the latest activity and upcoming reunions from the user's friends. When clicking on a friend's name, the app redirects the user to the Classmates.com page, where they can do all the things a regular Classmates.com user can.

As a downside to the app, it does not show if the Classmates.com friends are on Facebook, so if the user wants to see that person's Facebook page, they must find them using the Facebook search page.

Classmates.com got into a little bit of trouble launching this app, being sued by Roger Townsend for violating the Electronic Data Privacy Act (EDPA) and Washington State privacy and fairness laws. This lawsuit came after the Seattle-based Classmates.com had modified its Privacy Policy to accommodate the launch of a Facebook and iPhone app.

By default, since it launched in the mid 90's, the service kept all profile data private, while only paying members were able to send and read emails, see friends on a map or see who had been following them. This changed in January 2010, when management decided it was time to bring in more traffic to the website and capitalize from its major competitor, Facebook, by launching a Facebook App. In the new Privacy Policy agreement, Classmates.com decided to make the previously private profile data public and accessible “using a variety of sites and devices.”

Besides this, according to ConsumerAffairs.com, another lawsuit was filed around the same time, this one by Thomas Ferguson and Patrick Fahy, two Classmates.com users, angry on the fact that the service exposed personal information without proper warnings.

The two plaintiffs in the lawsuit are accusing Classmates.com of hiding and manipulating data to fool users into accepting the new terms without providing proper details of how their data would be used or with any proper and simple way of opting out of the new terms.

The service is a well-known offender, being sued in the past by a vast number of users for failing to stop billing accounts after the users had unsubscribed and deceptive marketing strategies.

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