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Student Sues School for $2M Over Facebook Photo

By Brett Snider, Esq. | Last updated on

A Georgia teen is suing her former high school after a school administrator used her Facebook photo in a presentation on the dangers of social media.

The now college freshman, 17-year-old Chelsea Chaney says she was "embarrassed" and "horrified" to learn that her alma mater was using a bikini-clad photo from her Facebook page to show students the risks of posting photos on Facebook, reports Atlanta's WSB-TV.

Chaney is requesting $2 million for her claims against the school district.

Bikinis and Snoop Dogg

The photo in question was taken on a family trip, according to Chaney, and features a Chaney in a red bikini standing arms akimbo to a cardboard cut-out of rap legend Snoop Dogg.

Chaney had posted the photo on Facebook, from which a school administrator allegedly swiped it without attempting to get permission from Chaney or her family, reports The Daily Caller.

Chaney isn't the first person to have her pictures on Facebook used in an embarrassing way, but her $2 million dollar claim has gotten the school district's attention.

False Light

Among the various claims made by Chaney against the school for using her photo without permission, her attorney has also claimed the photo was used to suggest Chaney was "promiscuous" or an alcoholic, reports WSB-TV.

Chaney's counsel may be referring to a false light claim, where a person can sue when an image, even if public, is used in an untrue or misleading fashion.

In order to win a false light suit against her former high school, Chaney must prove the photo:

  • Was shown by the school to its students (or any third party),
  • Was displayed with reckless disregard,
  • Shows Chaney in a false light (i.e. that she's drunk or promiscuous), and
  • Is highly offensive or embarrassing to a reasonable person.

For its part, a school spokesman told WSB-TV the district does not believe it's liable in this case. The spokesman declined to comment further.

Facebook Privacy Claims

There are many legal avenues to take when someone posts a photo of you on their Facebook, but for the most part, photos you post on Facebook are monsters of your own creation.

While Facebook has been successfully sued before for taking users' photos and turning them into targeted ads, a casual browser who saves a photo for their own personal use may not be breaking any laws.

For students like Chaney, her school's message still rings true: Careful what you post on Facebook.

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