Facebook users suing over the alleged disclosure of their online activities may proceed with breach-of-contract and fraud claims, an appeals court said, while dismissing privacy violation allegations against Facebook and Zynga.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco on Thursday reinstated Facebook users' claims that the social network's alleged dissemination of information about their online activities defrauded customers and breached a contract.

Other "courts have rejected breach-of-contract claims," Kassra Nassiri, an attorney for Facebook users, said in a phone interview. "This is a very important decision" because the appeals court allowed the allegation to go forward, he said.

Privacy cases against Facebook, Google and other Internet companies have multiplied as users become aware of how much of their personal information firms are disclosing.

Google faces privacy suits over its Street View feature and Gmail email service after it failed last year to persuade federal courts in California to dismiss claims attacking its data collection.

Genevieve Grdina, a spokeswoman for Menlo Park-based Facebook, didn't have an immediate comment on Thursday's ruling.

In their complaint, Facebook users claim that when they clicked on advertisements the social network "automatically and surreptitiously" disclosed to advertisers information about them and how they were using the website, "contrary to Facebook's explicit privacy promises."


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The appeals court Thursday also upheld a lower-court judge's dismissal of users' privacy violation claims against Facebook and Zynga, which pioneered social games on Facebook. The three-judge panel said the users failed to show that Facebook or Zynga disclosed the content of communications, a necessary element of the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

The panel said disclosure of personally identifiable information, such as users' Facebook identities and website addresses, is allowed under the privacy act.

"The information allegedly disclosed by Facebook and Zynga is record information about a user's communications, not the communication itself," the panel said.

Some of the lawsuits' privacy claims are based on practices and policies that the companies have since changed, lawyers said at a January hearing.