A number of Facebook users have taken to social media to share images of a $15 check they just received in the post from the social network.
The reactions, shared on Twitter, range from delight (after all, who doesn’t like free money?) to bemusement. As it turns out, the checks are part of the settlement of a class action lawsuit against Facebook’s use of its users’ names and faces in “Sponsored Story” ads without their consent, reports NBC New York.
Following more than two years of deliberation, the lawsuit was finally settled in late August 2013, with a U.S. federal judge granting approval for Facebook’s $20 million settlement. Of that final sum, $9 million was authorized to be divided amongst the roughly 614,000 Facebook members that appeared in the ads without their approval — hence the checks people are currently receiving.
For those unfamiliar with the promos, Sponsored Stories were ads that looked like regular status updates from general users and appeared in the News Feed, giving off the impression that a person’s friend was posting the message.
The judge overseeing the case found that although the five plaintiffs (who filed it in 2011) had provided sufficient evidence of legal injury, they had failed to provide adequate support for their complaint of illegality on Facebook’s part. Had the company been found in violation of California law, the checks being mailed out today would have been worth around $750 per user, totalling more than $112 million. Now that really would have been a reason to celebrate.
The Fraley vs. Facebook lawsuit not only resulted in the payout, but it also gave users more control over how their photos were used in promotional material. It may have also led to the complete demise of Sponsored Stories, which were binned by the social network earlier in 2013.
The class action’s website reveals that third-parties had kept the case tied up in appeals for years. With those now resolved, the settlement was finally ready to be doled out to recipients. Facebook users who filed to join the class action by the May 2, 2013 deadline were entitled to the payment.