Facebook Sponsored Stories Decision Coming Soon
November 16, 2012

Judge To Make Decision Concerning Facebook Sponsored Stories

Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

US District Judge Richard Seeborg has said he´ll be making a ruling about Facebook´s Shared Stories suit “very shortly.” In January 2011, some Facebook users began to see their friend´s names pop up in advertisements as a sign of endorsement. It was discovered that whenever a user “liked” a company, Facebook would take this information and use it in the ads, a violation of their privacy policy.

Judge Seeborg has once before denied a lawsuit against Facebook for this alleged violation, but yesterday the Judge said he´d be willing to hear Facebook´s proposed settlement, according to Reuters.

Five Facebook users have filed this new lawsuit against the social networking giant and are seeking class action status, representing the more than 100 million users Facebook currently claims.

According to these 5 members, Facebook violated California law when they began hijacking “likes” to be used in advertisements.

When this “feature” first rolled out, advertisements displayed a Facebook user´s profile picture, name and “like” alongside the ad, acting as a sort of personal endorsement for the company. In the beginning, these ads showed up on the right side of the site alongside the other ads. Soon after, Facebook moved these ads to the Timeline, placing them front and center for all to see.

What´s more, Facebook didn´t give its users an opportunity to opt out of having their likes being shared.

Facebook´s proposed $20 million settlement in May was nearly accepted, but one day before the settlement was to be accepted, Judge Lucy Koh backed out of the case. Though she didn´t explain why she was walking away from the case, it´s likely she was busy preparing for the blockbuster legal case of the year between Apple and Samsung.

The case was then handed over to Judge Seeborg, who noticed the $20 million proposed settlement involved $10 million in legal fees and another $10 million to local charities. The judge said the proposed settlement didn´t make any sense as none of the affected users would be seeing any of this $20 million and rejected the settlement.

Facebook´s new settlement, which was proposed last month, now offers $10 a piece to each affected user, as well as an opportunity for these users to see how advertisers used their information in these sponsored stories. Under the proposed settlement, parents would also be able to remove their children under the age of 18 from the program. Not forgetting about the charity aspect of the deal, Facebook has also said they´d donate whatever money remained after they paid their affected users.

Facebook´s attorney told the judge on Thursday this Facebook settlement was fair, but reminded the judge he wasn´t being asked to write a national privacy policy.

“Trust me, I´m not proposing to set grand policy with privacy issues writ large,” replied Judge Seeborg, according to Reuters.

A pair of children´s advocacy groups have filed court papers opposing the deal, saying Facebook should take the responsibility to opt-out on their own shoulders and only give parents the option to opt-in to the sponsored stories program.

Other outside groups will also be able to object to these settlements if Judge Seeborg grants a preliminary hearing.