A US judge ruled on Monday that Facebook must pay out $20 million to settle a class-action lawsuit. The suit was taken out by Facebook users whose pictures were used in “sponsored stories” adverts without their permission.
The money will be divided between users, attorneys and various non-profit advocacy groups including the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Approximately 614,000 users will receive individual payouts of $15 each.
The suit was first filed in 2011 in response to Facebook’s “sponsored stories” advertisements. Users who had ‘liked’ a certain brand could then have their name and likeness used in future adverts by the company on the social website.
In an official statement regarding the ruling, US District Judge Richard Seeborg said: “Although the monetary relief to each class member is relatively small and the percentage of class members who submitted claims is limited, the settlement as a whole provides fair, reasonable, and adequate relief to the class, in light of all the circumstances, including the low probability that a substantially better result would be obtained through continued litigation.”
Although Judge Seeborg ruled in favour of compensation to the plaintiffs he reiterates that they “faced a substantial burden in showing they were injured by the Sponsored Stories”:
"Sponsored Stories, in Facebook's view, does nothing more than take information users have already voluntarily disclosed to their ‘friends’, and sometimes redisplays it to the same persons, in a column that also contains more traditional paid advertising,"
Under the terms of the settlement Facebook will also be required to amend the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities that governs use of users’ information on the site, as well as provide greater information about similar schemes in the future.