Facebook Emails Users About September’s Beacon Settlement

Facebook’s ill-fated early social advertising service, Beacon, is now even closer to being a memory. The company sent out a court-ordered email today to users who had used the service when it launched in late 2007, notifying them of a class action lawsuit settlement announced this past September.

The service aimed to tell people when their friends did certain things across the web, like buy a movie ticket — an item about this action would automatically show up in their friends news feed. As the official web site for the settlement says today, the issue, to the plaintiffs in the suit, as well as many other users, is that they “did not receive adequate notice and/or choice about how Facebook and its affiliates used Beacon to collect information about their web-browsing activity before it was sent to Facebook for publication.”

To be clear, this is a settlement — there hasn’t been a court decision. As Facebook said in September, and as the settlement site reiterates: “Facebook denies any and all liability for the claims alleged in this lawsuit. The Court has not decided in the favor of the Class or Facebook and the other Defendants at this time.”

Facebook stopped promoting Beacon long ago; many people were under the impression that it was offline by late 2008, although it only completely shut down as part of the settlement this fall.

Aside from the full shutdown, Facebook is also creating a foundation to support projects that promote privacy, safety and security causes, and funding it with $9.5 million.

The email:

Facebook is sending you this notice of a proposed class action settlement that may affect your legal rights as a Facebook member who may have used the Beacon program.  This summary notice is being sent to you by Court Order so that you may understand your rights and remedies before the Court considers final approval of the proposed settlement on February 26, 2010.

This is not an advertisement or attorney solicitation.

This is not a settlement in which class members file claims to receive compensation.  Under the proposed settlement, Facebook will terminate the Beacon program.  In addition, Facebook will provide $9.5 million to establish an independent non-profit foundation that will identify and fund projects and initiatives that promote the cause of online privacy, safety, and security.

For full details on the settlement and further instructions on what to do to opt out of, object to, or otherwise comment upon the proposed settlement, please go to http://www.BeaconClassSettlement.com.

Please do not reply to this email.

And, here’s more from the statement Facebook put out about the settlement in September:

We learned a great deal from the Beacon experience. For one, it was underscored how critical it is to provide extensive user control over how information is shared. We also learned how to effectively communicate changes that we make to the user experience. The introduction of Facebook Connect – a product that gives users significant control over how they extend their Facebook identity on the Web and share experiences back to friends on Facebook – is an example of this. We look forward to the creation of the foundation and its work to educate Internet users on how best to control their privacy; engage in safe social networking practices; and, generally, enjoy themselves more online by having knowledge that gives them a greater sense of control. We fully expect the foundation to team with other leading online safety and privacy experts and organizations that have been working diligently in these fields.