Facebook Will Have to Pay $10 Million Settlement

Have you ever gone on Facebook, and noticed an ad at the side of the page that had a photo of one of your friends in it? How often have you seen a Facebook ad that pointed out that one of your friends “likes” a particular product or company? These types of advertisements are called “Sponsored Stories”, and Facebook has gotten into a lot of trouble for creating them.

Five Facebook members filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court in San Jose, California. They said that Facebook violated California law by publicizing when a user clicks “like” on the pages of certain advertisers and putting that information into its “Sponsored Stories” feature. Facebook did not give users a way to opt out of having their “likes” included in advertisements in this way, and it did not pay the users whose likenesses or opinions that it used.

The case was heard by U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh about a month ago, but the results of the case are just being made public now. The Judge decided that the Facebook users who filed this lawsuit were able to show that “economic injury could occur through Facebook’s use of their names, photographs, and likenesses”. The state of California has a law that protects a person’s name and likeness against it being appropriated for the advantage of the person or company that decided to just go ahead and use it, without having the permission to do so.

As a result of this lawsuit, Facebook will be paying $10 million to a charity. I haven’t seen anything that states which specific charity the money will go to.

I find this entire case very interesting, because I’ve always wondered about the hidden, inner workings of Facebook that resulted in seeing my friend’s faces appear in their “Sponsored Stories” advertisements. Sometimes, I’ve wondered if my Facebook friends were seeing my photo, or my name, attached to some company that I “like”. I live in California, so, it seems to me that I won’t have to wonder about this any longer.

It does raise a question, though. Can Facebook continue to use the photos, likenesses, and “likes” of users who live in a state that doesn’t have laws that prevent companies from using this type of stuff in their advertisements (without asking, or paying, the users who it takes them from)? Are my family members who use Facebook, and who live outside of California, protected from having their face wind up in a “Sponsored Story?”

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