If you’re a Facebook (FB) user, there’s a good chance you got an email over the last 48 hours with the subject: “Re: LEGAL NOTICE OF SETTLEMENT OF CLASS ACTION.” It’s not of the Nigerian riches variety. For one, it’s only offering you up to $10. For another, it’s legit.
The email stems from a lawsuit we’ve been covering exhaustively here at the Not-So Private Parts. “Fraley vs. Facebook” stems from Facebook’s decision in 2011 to put users in “Sponsored Story” ads based on things that they 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).
Within three months of the announcement, an enterprising group of 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.)
Facebook and the plaintiffs settled the suit in December to the tune of $20 million. That $20 million is covering the class action lawyers’ fees; the rest is potentially going to be divvied up among Facebook users who appeared in Sponsored Stories ads — which is why you got that legal notice inviting you to claim your up-to-$10 share — or, if the demand is too great, the money will instead go to a bunch of non-profits that work on privacy issues. If the amount of money divided by the number of claimants comes out to less than $4.99 each, the money goes to the non-profits.