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Facebook Axes "Beacon," Donates $9.5M To Settle Suit 71

alphadogg sends in a Network World piece that begins "Facebook has agreed to shut down a program that sparked a lawsuit alleging privacy violations, and set up a $9.5M fund for a nonprofit foundation that will support online privacy, safety, and security. The lawsuit centers around Facebook's Beacon program, which let third-party Web sites distribute 'stories' about users to Facebook. Beacon was launched in November 2007 and less than a year later plaintiffs filed a class action lawsuit 'alleging that Facebook and its affiliates did not give users adequate notice and choice about Beacon and the collection and use of users' personal information.' ... Facebook never admitted wrongdoing but as part of a proposed settlement the company began sending notices to Facebook users this week. The settlement provides no compensation directly to users who receive the notice. Facebook users can opt out of the settlement, and should do so if they wish to pursue further legal action against Facebook related to the Beacon program. 'If you choose to do nothing and remain in the settlement class, you will be legally bound by the settlement,' a FAQ on the settlement Web site says. "By doing nothing, you will be giving up the right to sue Facebook and the other Defendants over claims related to or arising out of the Beacon program.'" Other defendents included Blockbuster, Fandango, Overstock.com, Zappos.com, and Gamefly. Neither the article nor the settlement site mentions what part, if any, they play in the settlement.
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Facebook Axes "Beacon," Donates $9.5M To Settle Suit

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  • Beacon (Score:3, Informative)

    by mugnyte ( 203225 ) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @08:55PM (#30372804) Journal

    "Beacon" let a site send your personal information and activity to Facebook, so that they could post it to your friends.

    So review a movie at blockbuster, then see it offered on your fb page as a post ready to publish.

    Exchanging information in this way may or may not be legal where the user lives, but it's certainly not open and explicit.

    I'm not sure how many people this will quiet, since nobody is revealing what actual info was shared (contact info? payment info?) and what was done with it (sold?).

  • silly lawsuit? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @09:07PM (#30372912)

    One might think it is, until you read that counsel for this lawsuit intends to collect the standard 33% fee (plus costs) for their righteous action in defense of this grand breach of privacy they committed. Nice way to earn $4mil. Way to stick up for the little guy.

  • by nacturation ( 646836 ) * <nacturation.gmail@com> on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @09:42PM (#30373148) Journal

    Why would one go publishing info about themselves that they didn't want out there?

    Beacon was opt-out only. If you were logged in to Facebook at the same time you visited a third party site, that third party site could publish a story 'PyroMosh purchased the Deluxe 12" Ass-Ramming Dildo from Anal Enterprises' without having to ask your permission. Oh sure, you could opt-out after the fact, but only for each individual third party once they had published to your profile.

  • Re:Legal? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Trepidity ( 597 ) <delirium-slashdot@@@hackish...org> on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @09:46PM (#30373182)

    That's the entire theory of class-action lawsuits. Normal lawsuits are opt-in: the plaintiffs' attorneys can only claim to represent any plaintiffs that have explicitly retained them as representation in the case. Other plaintiffs therefore retain the right to sue separately, but unless they actually do so, they are not represented in the lawsuit. In class-action lawsuits, plaintiffs' attorneys can ask to have a class certified, and they will be taken to represent all members of the class, except insofar as members of the class opt out.

    In theory at least, this has some pros for both sides (in addition to cons, of course). For consumers, the pro is that harm that would not be worth suing for individually will still be remedied, because it's worth suing for in aggregate: so a hypothetical evil corporation that did something illegal to cause $10 of damage to every person in the United States won't get away with it. For companies, the pro is that settling a class-action lawsuit settles it for all members of the class simultaneously, except those who explicitly opt out, so they can get the complaint over with once and for all.

  • It doesn't look like there's any settlement money for normal Facebook users.

    The settlement provides that the $9.5 million will be spent on:

    • (i) setting up a non-profit Privacy Foundation
    • (ii) paying settlement-administration costs
    • (iii) paying plaintiffs' attorneys fees and expenses, plus approximately $2,000 to each of the 19 Representative Plaintiffs who initiated the suit
  • by NoYob ( 1630681 ) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @10:18PM (#30373412)
    Another post wrongfully modded "Troll".

    Some of you with mod points really need to read the moderation guidelines.

    Here's a bullet point guide:

    Troll [wikipedia.org]: someone who's posting stuff just to get a reaction out of folks.

    Flamebait: just posting shit to piss everyone off or a select group. An example, I think Slashdot has a script that looks for really stupid people and then gives them mod points. See, that's "Flamebait".

    Now off-topic would be if I posted something about Nazi Germany and their battle tanks.

    Overrated will be if I got a +5 Funny for posting, "Imagine a Beowulf cluster of Facebooks" or "In Soviet Russia, Facebooks you!"


    Now, you Troll moderators be nice and post something to back off the parent's bogus moderation.

  • by tonycheese ( 921278 ) on Tuesday December 08, 2009 @11:14PM (#30373734)

    I honestly, honestly thought it was spam. In fact, I had just marked it as spam before I came over here and read about it.

    Facebook is sending you this notice of a proposed class action settlement that may affect your legal rights as a Facebook member who may have used the Beacon program. This summary notice is being sent to you by Court Order so that you may understand your rights and remedies before the Court considers final approval of the proposed settlement on February 26, 2010.

    This is not an advertisement or attorney solicitation.

    This is not a settlement in which class members file claims to receive compensation. Under the proposed settlement, Facebook will terminate the Beacon program. In addition, Facebook will provide $9.5 million to establish an independent non-profit foundation that will identify and fund projects and initiatives that promote the cause of online privacy, safety, and security.

    For full details on the settlement and further instructions on what to do to opt out of, object to, or otherwise comment upon the proposed settlement, please go to http://www.beaconclasssettlement.com./ [www.beacon...lement.com]

    Please do not reply to this email.

    That was the entirety of the email. No signature, no hello, that was it.

  • by mantis2009 ( 1557343 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @12:53AM (#30374198)
    To opt out of the settlement: [www.beacon...lement.com]

    10. What If You Want To Exclude yourself (Opt Out) From The Settlement? If you do not want to be legally bound by the settlement, you must exclude yourself by February 1, 2010, or you will not be able to sue, or continue to sue, the Defendants and certain other parties for the claims listed in the Settlement Agreement. To opt out, you must mail (email is not permitted) your original, signed exclusion request to: Facebook Settlement Administrator Exclusion Requests P.O. Box 6177 Novato, CA 94948-6177 Your request for exclusion must contain your name and address, be signed by you, and include the reference “Lane et al. v. Facebook, Inc. et al., Civil Action 5:08-CV-03845-RS.” Your original, signed request for exclusion must be RECEIVED on or before February 1, 2010.

  • Re:Silly (Score:3, Informative)

    by chimpo13 ( 471212 ) <slashdot@nokilli.com> on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @03:45AM (#30374942) Homepage Journal

    When it started, you didn't approve anything. And I hadn't heard of beacon or what it was. It outed me on yelp reviews that I had under a different name with a different email. Mildly embarrassing since I gave a friend's restaurant an honest (read bad) review. I figured it was under a different email so I was safe. Not at all.

"Tell the truth and run." -- Yugoslav proverb