Judge approves $9.5-million settlement of lawsuit over Facebook’s Beacon program

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After reviewing objections, a San Jose federal judge has approved a $9.5-million settlement of a class-action lawsuit over social networking site Facebook’s Beacon program that published what users were buying.

Facebook denied any wrongdoing but agreed to end the Beacon program last November.

As part of the settlement, Facebook will finance a “digital trust fund” that will issue more than $6 million in grants to organizations that study online privacy. Over the objections of privacy advocates, Facebook will have a seat on the fund’s three-member board. It consists of Chris Jay Hoofnagle, who heads the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology; Tim Sparapani, Facebook’s public policy director; and writer Larry Magid.

“We’re pleased that Judge [Richard] Seeborg has approved the settlement after carefully considering all opinions,” Facebook spokesman Barry Schnitt said. “The independent foundation will fund worthy projects helping protect and improve Internet users’ privacy, safety and security. We look forward to providing additional details on the foundation in the weeks and months ahead.”


One privacy advocate said he was exploring whether he could appeal the decision. “This sweetheart deal for Facebook is outrageous and another indication they don’t really want to ensure privacy online,” said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy.