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Facebook Sponsored Stories Class Action Settles, $15 Per Claimant

| 27 Aug 2013 18:29
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It's a fair and reasonable settlement under the circumstances, says the judge.

Back in the mists of time Facebook decided it would be a good idea to start a Sponsored Stories program, basically a means of harvesting the Likes of your Facebook friends and using them to generate advertising which appeared on your feed. The user who kicked it all off with the Like had their photo attached to the Sponsored Story, without the user's permission or knowledge, and there was no way to opt out of the program. This sparked off a class action suit, which has now settled, with each of the claimants getting $15 for their trouble. It's a fair assessment says Judge Seeborg, bearing in mind that the profits attributable to this scheme amounted to about $0.60 per class member; particularly since the claimants had failed to prove that they'd suffered any harm as a result of Sponsored Stories.

Besides, Judge Seeborg points out, privacy is not ironclad on Facebook. The platform exists for sharing information, and is provided free by Facebook at considerable cost to itself. "While it does not follow that Facebook has carte blanche to exploit material belonging to, or regarding, its members in any fashion whatsoever," Seeborg says, "neither is it foreclosed from adopting SRRs that are not as "pro member" or "pro-privacy" as some might like."

The payout will come from a $20 million fund, established by consent of all parties, devised in hope that not too many people would join the class action and therefore the payout would be something reasonable. The problem was that even a modest payout, when calculated on a per person basis, could - given the number of people potentially affected - have reached the billions of dollars range, well beyond the means of any company to cover. "This raises the spectre of whether some class actions are simply too big to settle, notwithstanding the strong policy favoring settlements," Seeborg said.

Source: Ars Technica

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