New Judge In Facebook Sponsored Stories Class Action Skeptical Of Settlement

By David Cohen 

The settlement Facebook reached in June in a class-action suit over the use of its members’ likenesses in sponsored stories may be in jeopardy, as U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg, who must approve the proposal, expressed “significant concerns.”

The case had been overseen most of the way by District Judge Lucy Koh, but she recused herself from the case last month without giving a reason why.

Facebook agreed in June to pay about $10 million for legal fees and to donate the same amount to charity, and Reuters reported that attorneys for both sides in the case argued that the roughly $20 million, along with promised changes to the social network’s privacy settings, were valued at some $123 million, prompting Seeborg to say:

That doesn’t make any sense to me.

And on the members of the class-action lawsuit not receiving any of the money, the judge added, according to Reuters:

I want to know more about why that is so.

Both sides responded to Seeborg’s concerns, Reuters reported, with plaintiffs’ attorney Robert Arns saying that his side was willing to settle because they feared that if they won a “massive verdict” against Facebook, it could be reversed in an appeal, while Facebook attorney Michael Rhodes said the two sides could not determine the value of each user’s photo appearing in sponsored stories, adding that the changes the social network was implementing are “unprecedented,” and saying:

I would submit to you that it has a significant benefit to the class. We are a commercial enterprise. There is no obligation to join Facebook for free.

According to Reuters, Seeborg is not expected to reach a final decision for several months.

Readers: What do you think the judge will decide?