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Unconsenting Facebookers exposed by Beacon denied payouts

Lawyers get rich, plaintiffs get 'not a nickel'

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A US appeals court has refused to add to Facebook's $9.5m settlement sea in a class action suit brought over the network's creepy adware service Beacon.

The now-defunct Beacon watched Facebookers as they shopped on affiliate websites and then displayed their purchases on their profile pages. Unfortunately, the social network neglected to ask anyone if they actually wanted to be opted in to the service, leading to widespread condemnation that eventually forced the firm to abandon the scheme.

The class action suit was filed by 19 people who wanted to see Facebook and other businesses who took part in Beacon in court. But Facebook quickly decided to settle the suit with $9.5m, $3m for the plaintiffs' attorneys and the rest to set up a foundation to promote online privacy.

The plaintiffs were naturally pretty ticked off, since they were getting nothing. They tried to argue that the settlement wasn't good enough because a Facebook employee would sit on the board of the new foundation and the pot wasn't good enough.

But the judges voted 2-1 to keep the settlement as it is. The one judge who wanted to up the ante said that the deal was unfair and only really helped lawyers and Facebook.

"This settlement perverts the class action into a device for depriving victims of remedies for wrongs, while enriching both the wrongdoers and the lawyers purporting to represent the class," Judge Andrew Kleinfeld said in the order.

"Facebook users who had suffered damages from past exposure of their purchases got no money, not a nickel, from the defendants."

However, the other judges outvoted him, saying that there was no reason to view the deal as other than "substantial". ®

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