If you received an email saying ‘Notice of Proposed Settlement of Class Action’ for a Facebook lawsuit settlement, it’s legit. There is a settlement in the Facebook lawsuit class action over the Internet tracking of Facebook users, and the settlement payout date will be some time after September 22, 2022. That is because September 22 is the date by which you must submit your claim as part of the ‘class’ and receive your payout. Nobody knows how much the payout will be, and in part that is because it depends on how many people submit claims; the settlement itself is $90million. Of course, the attorneys will receive about a third of that, leaving a pool of about $60million to be divided between everyone who submits a claim (that’s generally how class action settlements work).
In this particular case, anyone who used Facebook between April 22, 2010 and September 26, 2011 and who went to a website that was not owned by Facebook and where they nonetheless saw a Facebook ‘Like’ button displayed, is part of the ‘class’, because if there was a Facebook ‘Like’ button on that non-Facebook website, it means that Facebook was tracking you. Without your consent.
The procedural history of this case is long, and convoluted. The plaintiffs, Perrin Davis and several others, first filed their lawsuit in 2012, asserting that Facebook had violated, among other things, the Federal Wiretap Act, the Federal Stored Electronic Communications Act, and the Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
Through a series of legal maneuvers, however, Facebook was able to file motions to dismiss, and have them granted, the court dismissing the case in 2015 (slow grind the wheels of justice). (The motions to dismiss were granted for lack of standing, failure to state a claim, etc., for you legal buffs.)
The plaintiffs amended and re-filed their claims at the end of 2015, Facebook filed more motions to dismiss, and the court again rejected the plaintiffs’ claims and dismissed the case in Facebook’s favor. However this time the plaintiffs appealed the court’s dismissal, appealing it to the appeals court above the court which had dismissed the case. That appeals court was the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The 9th Circuit held that the lower court was wrong to dismiss the case, and reinstated it. (For a really great in-depth explanation of the legal wranglings check out EPIC’s explanation here.) At that point, Facebook appealed the 9th Circuit’s reinstatement of the case, appealing it to the Supreme Court of the United States.
Now, when you appeal something to the Supreme Court, you are asking them if they will please take a look at the case, and render a decision based on what’s going in the case. This request to the Supreme Court is called a request for a Writ of Certiorari. ‘Writ of Certiorari’ is essentially Latin for a “writ to become more fully informed”, and so a request for a Writ of Certiorari is a request for the Supreme Court to issue a written command to the courts below the Supreme Court to assist the Supreme Court in becoming more fully informed about the matter by having the lower courts deliver all of the records to the Supreme Court. Then the Supreme Court can review those records and make a ruling as to whether the lower court’s decision was proper and appropriate. (In the legal world this is known as a “Writ of Cert”, because lawyers are too lazy to say the extra four syllables in “certiorari”.)
Once the request for a Writ of Cert is made to the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court then decides that it either wants to review the case or that it doesn’t want to review the case, and if it doesn’t want to review the case it denies the application for the Writ of Cert. This is important, because all being denied Cert means is that the Supreme Court doesn’t want to review the case. It does not mean that the Supreme Court thinks that the lower court was right, or that the party that lost in the lower courts was wrong, or that there were procedural issues, or anything else. It means nothing other than that the Supreme Court justices were like “Wanna look at this one? Nah.”
In this case the Supreme Court denied Facebook’s application for a Writ of Cert, which meant that the lower court’s reinstatement of the case stood. So Facebook had a choice as to whether to actually litigate the case on the merits, or settle. They chose to settle.
Which brings us to now. If you received that email saying ‘Notice of Proposed Settlement of Class Action’, it means that the administrators in the ‘Facebook Internet Tracking Litigation’ case have identified you as a likely member of the class; in other words it’s likely that you had a Facebook account during the period between April 22, 2010 and September 26, 2011, and that you visited a non-Facebook website which had a ‘Like’ button. They probably know this because, hey, the entire case was about how Facebook tracked you then, so in that way their own data was their own petard upon which they were hoisted.
The website at which to register as a confirmed member of the class is https://www.fbinternettrackingsettlement.com/, however you need both the ‘Notice ID’ and the ‘Confirmation Code’ from the email in order to register and submit your claim. You can join the class without those, if you are someone with a freakishly good memory who remembers that, more than 10 years ago, you visited a website and saw a Facebook ‘Like’ button while you also had an account on Facebook.
Either way, if you get the notice or otherwise believe that you qualify, you have basically 4 options:
Submit a claim by September 22, 2022 (that is the only way to receive a settlement payment)
Proactively opt out of and exclude yourself from the class (you would do this if, for example, you plan to sue Facebook on your own for this issue instead).
Object to the settlement, like if you think it could have been better.
Do nothing. If you do nothing, you basically consent to being part of the class but you don’t get paid a settlement. In fact, the administration site specifically says that unless you intentionally and proactively exclude yourself from the class “you are automatically part of the Settlement. If you do nothing, you will not get a payment from this Settlement and you will give up the right to sue, continue to sue, or be part of another lawsuit against the Defendant related to the legal claims resolved by this Settlement.”
Happily, it turns out to be really easy to submit your claim. You just go to the website, enter the Notice ID and Confirmation Code, confirm your name and address, and select a payment method (they offer check, Paypal, Venmo(!), and direct deposit).