Facebook’s Beacon Settlement Approved by Judge

In what appears to be the last of several conclusions to a drawn-out class action lawsuit regarding Facebook’s now- defunct Beacon advertising program, a judge has approved a contested settlement, as Wired reports. Facebook will provide $9.5 million to create a “Digital Trust Fund” dedicated to studying online privacy (minus $3 million for legal fees).

Beacon automatically showed users’ activity on other web sites to their friends on Facebook. One plaintiff had bought a diamond for his wife, and she found out about it before he intended her to because Beacon immediately shared the purchase with her. Facebook stopped promoting Beacon years ago, but only officially shut it down last year as part of the terms of the settlement last fall.

However, lawyers for the plaintiffs contested the settlement, in part because it allows Facebook to retain a seat on the foundation’s board — they’re concerned the company will be able to influence how the foundation approaches the issues in their favor. But U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg ruled that “[t]here has been no pervasive showing that the foundation will be a mere publicity tool for Facebook.”

The trust will ““fund and sponsor programs designed to educate users, regulators and enterprises regarding critical issues relating to protection of identity and personal information online through user control, and to protect users from online threats.”