Some Facebook users have recently received a $15 check as settlement for using their names and faces in “Sponsored Story” ads without their permission and without paying them.
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 social media giant surprised the recipients with the $15 check in a mail sparking curiosity. The money is settlement from a Fraley vs. Facebook class action lawsuit which was filed in April 2011. The payouts were sent on Thursday, November 17 after all appeals had been resolved.
In August 2013, a U.S. federal judge in California approved a $20 million settlement after more than two years of deliberation, and Facebook promised to give users more “control” over how their photos are used in ads.
Of that 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.
In their lawsuit, the five plaintiffs claimed Facebook improperly used photos and names of users in Sponsored Story ads, which are created by members “liking” companies’ pages or content.
The plaintiffs also argued that Facebook violated a California law that forbids companies from using people’s likenesses or names in advertisements without their consent. Finally, the suit asserted that Facebook should have received parental consent to use the names and likeness of any user under the age of 18.
Anyone included in the company’s surreptitious campaign was able to opt into the suit, by May 2, 2013, which was the deadline.
Third parties kept the case tied up in appeals court for years, but after those were finally resolved this year, the settlement awards were freed up to be distributed to Class Members.
The Facebook users who got the checks took to social media to share images of the $15 check they just received in their mailboxes from Facebook.