The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

February 9, 2013

Facebook may owe 125M 16 cents

SUNBURY — Are you one of the millions who recently received an email about a “Notice of Pending Class Action and Notice of Proposed Settlement — Angel Fraley vs. Facebook Inc.?”

If you opened it, you read that you may be among those in a lawsuit against Facebook for violating privacy rights and if so, you may be entitled to a piece of any proposed settlement money.

Really?

Yes, really. It sounds like a scam, but it’s not.

Don’t get too excited. If you actually file a claim, you aren’t going to get rich. At the most, you may get up to $10.  

We received a lot of calls and emails from readers wondering about the legitimacy of this notice, most from people who had already deleted it as suspected spam.

In a Jan. 26, 2012, article, Forbes.com reported that “Fraley vs. Facebook” came from Facebook’s decision in 2011 to put users in ’Sponsored Story’ ads based on things users had ’Liked.’ The ads didn’t always reflect the context in which someone ’Liked’ something, as the dude who famously wound up promoting a 55-gallon drum of sexual lubricant last Valentine’s Day can attest, and there was no way of opting out, beyond not Liking anything.“ (Read more about that by going to Forbes.com and search for ”Angel Fraley“).

“Within three months of the announcement, an enterprising group of five plaintiffs led by seamstress Angel Fraley sued Facebook in California saying the company had violated the law by using their names and likenesses in ads without their permission and without paying them. (Lead plaintiff Fraley later dropped out of the suit, citing Facebook lawyers’ aggressive tactics, which basically consisted of digging up embarrassing material about her from her Facebook account.)”

The suit was revised to award money to Facebook members for using their personal information — for a whopping $20 million. A hearing on the fairness of the deal is coming up on June 28.

So yes, there’s a chance that some of that $20 million could come your way if you appeared in a Facebook Sponsored Story ad and file a claim.

But not so fast. Know that first, court-determined attorneys fees, costs, and class administration costs will be deducted. That will take the remaining money down to around $12 million, to be divided among everyone who files a claim.

So how many people might you have to share that with? Consider this from Social Bakers: “Facebook has nearly 165 million American users; court filings suggest about 125 million of them got this notice. If they all wanted a piece of the full $20 million pie, they’d get 16-cent slices. If more than 4 million people claim their share, that would mean less than $5 each.”

Your odds are getting worse because according to the settlement, if the amount of money divided by the number of claimants is less than $4.99 each, then the money will instead go to a group of 14 nonprofit organizations involved with, and will use the money for, the public good regarding social media education and outreach as it relates to advertising, minors and privacy.

Bottom line: If 3 million people — or just 2.4 percent of those who received the email notice — apply for a piece of that $12 million, it will take the per-person payment below the $4.99-each threshold. Most likely, the nonprofits will be splitting up the $12 million, each getting in the ballpark of $1 million.

But you can think positively — each person who deleted the email notice increases your chances of getting a (tiny) share.

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