A U.S. judge said he would consider whether to preliminarily approve
Facebook's second attempt to settle allegations the social networking
company violated privacy rights.
Earlier this year, U.S. District
Judge Richard Seeborg rejected a proposed class action settlement over
Facebook's 'Sponsored Stories' advertising feature. But at a hearing on
Thursday in San Francisco federal court, Seeborg was much less critical
of a revised proposal and promised a ruling "very shortly."
Facebook Inc members filed a lawsuit seeking class-action status against
the social networking site, saying its Sponsored Stories feature
violated California law by publicizing users' "likes" of certain
advertisers without paying them or giving them a way to opt out. The
case involved over 100 million potential class members.
As part of
a proposed settlement reached earlier this year, Facebook agreed to
allow members more control over how their personal information is used.
Facebook also agreed to pay $10 million for legal fees and $10 million
to charity, according to court documents.
However, Seeborg rejected the proposed deal in August, questioning why it did not award any money to members.
a revised proposal, Facebook and plaintiff lawyers said users now could
claim a cash payment of up to $10 each to be paid from a $20 million
total settlement fund. Any money remaining would then go to charity.
company also said it would engineer a new tool to enable users to view
any content that might have been displayed in Sponsored Stories and then
opt out if they desire, the court document says.
In court on
Thursday, Facebook attorney Michael Rhodes said the settlement provided
meaningful protections and that Seeborg's job was to ensure a fair
"Trust me, I'm not proposing to set grand policy with privacy issues writ large," Seeborg said.
children's advocacy groups filed court papers opposing the deal, saying
that an opt-in procedure with parental consent should be required
before Facebook can use a minor's content in ads.
plaintiff attorney Robert Arns said the deal balances the public good
with Facebook's ability to run a profitable social networking service.
"We believe we cracked the code so that it's fair," he said.
If Seeborg grants his preliminary approval, outside groups would be able to file further objections before a final hearing.
case in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California is Angel
Fraley et al., individually and on behalf of all others similarly
situated vs. Facebook Inc, 11-cv-1726.
© Thomson Reuters 2012