What Does Facebook’s $20 Million Lawsuit Settlement Mean for You?

By Tara MacIsaac
Tara MacIsaac
Tara MacIsaac
Tara MacIsaac is an editor and reporter who has worked on a variety of topics over the course of her ten years with The Epoch Times, including science, the environment, and local New York news. She is currently working with The Epoch Times edition based in Southern California.
August 27, 2013 Updated: August 27, 2013

The issue was Facebook’s “sponsored stories” ads. When a Facebook user hits the “like” button for a product, his or her profile photo could be used without permission in ads for that product. A class-action suit brought against Facebook in 2011 for allegedly failing to properly inform users of this system was settled Monday, Aug. 26.

U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg in San Francisco approved a deal for a $20 million pot to be shared among charities, attorneys working on the case, and Facebook users featured in the sponsored stories, reports Wired.

Individual Facebook users could receive up to $750 if the case went to trial, but many plaintiffs in these kinds of cases do not fill out the requisite paperwork and follow up, reports Wired. Judge Seeborg instead has the power to reduce the amount given to individuals—depending on the volume of response—and allot the money to charity under the new settlement.

The impact will be felt by most Facebook users in terms of changing regulations around the use of their information in sponsored stories—though that will be minimal.

Users will not be able to prevent their likeness from being used in ads, but they will be able to control how it is used to a certain extent. Only minors will be able to opt out.

Facebook generated $234 million with the sponsored stories, according to court filings cited by Reuters. The changes in Facebook users’ control over sponsored stories represents an estimated value of $145 million plaintiff lawyers told Reuters. Wired reports that about 125 million U.S. Facebook users had their likenesses used in the ads.

Adjusting Your Facebook Settings 

Facebook explains: “Sponsored Stories respect your privacy settings. This means only the people you’re already sharing your activity with on Facebook can see Sponsored Stories about you. For example, this is a possible Sponsored Stories for Jane whose privacy settings allow her friends to see News Feed stories about Pages she likes.”

“You can’t opt out of being featured in Sponsored Stories, but you can visit your activity log to make sure that only the people you want to share with can see your activity,” writes Facebook.

Users can go to the privacy shortcuts tab (at the top right of their page—see photo on this article) and choose “Who can see my stuff?” Then, choose “Use activity log” to manage who can see individual sponsored stories. 

Tara MacIsaac
Tara MacIsaac
Tara MacIsaac is an editor and reporter who has worked on a variety of topics over the course of her ten years with The Epoch Times, including science, the environment, and local New York news. She is currently working with The Epoch Times edition based in Southern California.