Wed, Aug 28, 2013 - Page 15 News List

Judge approves US$20m deal in Facebook suit

AFP, SAN FRANCISCO

A US judge on Monday approved a deal in which Facebook will pay US$20 million for using members’ “likes” as endorsements for advertisements.

The sum is to be divvied up among attorneys, Internet privacy rights groups and Facebook users who filed claims in the class-action lawsuit.

US District Judge Richard Seeborg reasoned that the sum, a small fraction of the billions being sought in the case, was fair given the challenges of proving Facebook members were financially harmed or that signaling “likes” for products did not imply some form of consent.

Facebook’s Sponsored Stories program used members’ names or likenesses to endorse ads without getting their permission, according to the legal filing.

Seeborg estimated the size of the class represented in the suit as 150 million people, but added that so few had filed claims that there was ample money in the settlement fund.

“The settlement as a whole provides fair, reasonable and adequate relief to the class, in light of all the circumstances, including the low probability that a substantially better result would be obtained through continued litigation,” the judge wrote in a ruling endorsing the deal.

The settlement calls for Facebook to modify its rules to give members greater control when it comes to how their information is used regarding Sponsored Stories.

“Sponsored Stories, in Facebook’s view, does nothing more than take information users have already voluntarily disclosed to their “friends,” and sometimes redisplays it to the same persons, in a column that also contains more traditional paid advertising,” the judge wrote while detailing his decision.

“Plaintiffs faced a substantial burden in showing they were injured by the Sponsored Stories,” he said.

So few Facebook members have filed claims that those negotiating the settlement proposed paying out US$15 to each person and having enough cash left over for attorneys fees and routing funds to Internet privacy groups, according to the ruling.

An original settlement rejected by the judge recommended the same pool of money, but allocated none of it to Facebook members.

The lawsuit was filed in early 2011 after Facebook launched its Sponsored Stories advertising program.

Separately, Facebook on Monday began letting members collaborate on shared online photo albums at the leading social network. Members can invite as many as 50 friends to contribute digital photos to online albums.

The Shared Album feature was to be introduced slowly, first becoming available to a small group of English-language users before gradually spreading across the social network.

Previously, Facebook members could only add photos to their own online albums at the social network.

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