In this season of giving, Facebook is setting up a $9.5 million fund for a nonprofit foundation that will support online privacy, safety and security. No, not out of the goodness of its warm little collective heart, because it had to under a settlement agreement. On December 8th it was reported that Facebook settled a class action suit over its Beacon program. Other corporate defendants in this suit included Blockbuster, Fandango, Hotwire, STA Travel, Overstock.Com, Zappos.com, and Gamefly.
Beacon launched in November of 2007, and was designed to allow users to share information with their selected friends about actions taken on affiliated, but third-party, websites. Any action taken would trigger a "story" to be published on Facebook. An option was given to approve, delete or ignore the story. If a user ignored the story, it would land in a queue to pop back up again when a second story was triggered. Needless to say, this could potentially spread information around Facebook without the user being completely aware of it.
Under the terms of the settlement Facebook, although admitting to no wrongdoing, agreed to terminate Beacon and fund the foundation. Facebook users who are part of the class of plaintiffs receive no individual compensation under the suit with the exception of the lead plaintiffs who will receive $41,500. Class members are those Facebook users who, between November 6, 2007 and October 23, 2009, visited a Facebook-affiliated website that was participating in Facebook's Beacon program. Class members have the option to opt out of the settlement and pursue their own legal remedy. Opt outs must be received by Feb. 1, 2010.
The court will approve the settlement at a hearing scheduled for next February. Although Facebook has formed a safety advisory board designed to improve user safety on the site, debates over privacy issues continue. Users may want to visit the new security section on Facebook recently enhanced to be more comprehensive and include content tailored for parents, teachers and teens.
For more information on the case settlement for Lane et al. v. Facebook, Inc et al., visit the case site at: http://www.beaconclasssettlement.com/Index.html
- Facebook Halts Beacon, Gives $9.5M to Settle Lawsuit (PC World)
- Lane et al. v. Facebook, Inc et al. Settlement Site
- Protect Your Privacy - Online Privacy (FindLaw)
- Class Action Cases (FindLaw)
- Internet Class Actions (provided by Erik S. Syverson)