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Facebook still faces foes to privacy settlement

Family advocates are renewing a battle over teenagers' privacy rights

Parents and children’s advocates are challenging a settlement in a 2011 class-action lawsuit with Facebook, and renewing a battle over teenagers’ privacy on the world’s largest online social network.

At issue, is how the company uses its cache of information with its 1.23 billion users. According to the Associated Press, Facebook's use of people's images in advertisements known as "sponsored stories" is causing the concern. This allowed companies to pay to retransmit users' activities to their friends' pages. If someone clicked the "like" button for a brand, the click could show up as a "sponsored story" on friends' pages. This allowed companies to pay to retransmit users' activities to their friends' pages. If someone clicked the "like" button for a brand, the click could show up as a "sponsored story" on friends' pages.

"Class-action settlements are supposed to compensate people for wrongdoing and deter the defendant from engaging in the bad behavior in future. This settlement does neither," said Scott Michelman, the Public Citizen attorney handling the case, in a statement

Last week, the non-profit Public Citizens and six parents of teenagers filed legal brief in a federal appeals court in California, arguing the settlement should be rejected. Groups like Public Citizens and other supporting organizations like the Center for Digital Democracy say the settlement should have never been approved because using minors’ images in ads without parents consent violates the law in several states.

In the settlement, Facebook agreed to pay $20 million to users, and in charitable contributions. That settlement was approved in a federal court last summer, however, an appeals is still pending. Under the settlement, if a user age 13 to 18 is friends with his or her parents on Facebook, then Facebook would provide a control for parents to opt teens out of “sponsored stories.” If a teen indicates that his or her parents are not on Facebook, then Facebook would opt teens out of “sponsored stories.” The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) was supposed to receive $290,000 under the settlement. It’s one of the nonprofit groups as well as universities sharing in about $4.8 million. The sum represented about 90 percent of the CCFC’s annual budget last year.

“To put it in perspective, we've never received more than $100,000 from a donor or foundation at any given time in our history,” said Josh Golin, associate director of the nonprofit, known for forcing Walt Disney Co. to offer refunds to people who bought Baby Einstein videos on the company’s claims that it boosted babies’ intelligence.

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Alexis Harrison

Alexis Harrison is a Connecticut-based writer and public relations professional whose career spans both print journalism and broadcast news. Alexis started her professional life as...

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