What Facebook’s Beacon settlement means for those involved


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Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Credit: Associated Press

As Facebook began rolling out its newly simplified privacy features Wednesday, some members of the social network were scratching their heads over an old privacy-related issue. Last week, Facebook announced an end to the Beacon debacle, a series of poorly-executed partnerships that resulted in some embarrassing privacy problems, in the form of a $9.5-million settlement.

Since then, Beacon users (many were probably inadvertently involved) have been receiving alerts through Facebook itself -- perhaps the first of its kind -- as well as through e-mail. We know this because we’ve received a bunch of them, forwarded to us by confused colleagues and friends.


The e-mails carry the subject line ‘Notice of class settlement’ and contain a jumble of legalese with a link to a website,, composed of even more confusing legalese. Don’t even bother with the site’s FAQ.

In plain English, Facebook, in the form of a settlement, legally acknowledged it screwed up with Beacon. The $9.5 million will fund, aside from legal expenses and money for the 19 people named as plaintiffs on the settlement, a nonprofit organization to benefit digital privacy and security.

Although you may have received an e-mail naming you a member of the class settlement, you will not get any money. Why do those lucky 19 people get paid? Because they were involved in an arduous court case, and you weren’t.

The 3 million or so Facebook users contacted about being involved in the case really don’t have to do anything. They could opt out, if they so choose. One might do so in order to file a separate Beacon lawsuit against Facebook in the future. Have fun with that.

As is the case in class-action lawsuits, if a sizable number of people opt out, then Facebook could bail on the settlement.

Of note, the law firm involved with this case is the same high-tech group that was behind the Amazon Kindle ‘1984,’ Spore DRM and Sony BMG rootkit cases.


-- Mark Milian