Facebook's Beacon Settlement Appealed By Privacy Advocate

Facebook user and privacy advocate Ginger McCall, who objected to a class-action settlement stemming from the defunct Beacon program, has appealed the order approving the controversial deal.

The agreement, authorized earlier this year by U.S. District Court Judge Richard Seeborg in the Northern District of California, calls for Facebook to permanently shutter Beacon, its 2007 marketing program that told members about their friends' off-site retail purchases.

The deal also requires Facebook to create a $9.5 million settlement fund, two-thirds of which will be used to launch a new privacy foundation (with the remainder going to attorneys' fees). That organization will be directed by a three-person board that includes Facebook's director of public policy, Tim Sparapani. Some privacy groups had criticized the settlement, arguing that Facebook would exert too much control over the new organization.

McCall, an attorney with the Electronic Privacy Information Center, says she would like to see the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rule that the settlement was improper. "It puts the fox in charge of the henhouse," McCall says of the arrangement.

McCall is being represented in the appeal by outside attorneys, including the advocacy group Public Citizen (which also is representing MediaPost in an unrelated matter.)

Facebook spokesperson Barry Schnitt said in a statement that McCall had no grounds to appeal. He added that the appeal was delaying the foundation from getting started. "Absent the appeal, the foundation created by the settlement would be on the way to distributing $6.5 million to fund independent privacy projects," he stated. "The public interest is not served by a delay in the start of this important foundation."

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