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Privacy Group Can Finally Start Work as Facebook Beacon Suit Ends

Digital Trust Foundation Charged with Funding Digital Privacy Efforts

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Following more than three and a half years in limbo, a group established as a result of the Facebook Beacon settlement to promote online privacy and security can finally start meeting.

Chris Hoofnagle, Digital Trust Foundation
Chris Hoofnagle, Digital Trust Foundation

The Digital Trust Foundation was formed as part of Facebook's 2010 settlement in a class action suit against the firm's brazen Beacon ad offering. A small number of consumers objected to the settlement, however, arguing that the foundation was an unproven entity and that Facebook should pay more than the $9.5 million agreed. But on Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected their appeal, leaving intact the settlement.

"I've just asked our board of legal advisors to convene a meeting in December to start creating guidelines for applications and a plan to disburse funds," said Chris Hoofnagle, co-president of DTF and director, information privacy programs at Berkeley Center for Law and Technology.

An initial task will be to develop grant-making guidelines for organizations seeking DTF funds.

The foundation's other two leaders are are Co-President Tim Sparapani, a former American Civil Liberties Union counsel who served as Facebook's director of public policy from April 2009 till October 2011, and CFO and Secretary Larry Magid, a longtime advocate for children's privacy and safety.

Facebook's much-maligned Beacon ad program aimed ads in news feeds to friends of users who had purchased items from Facebook partners including Overstock.com and eBay. The ads touted the purchases, essentially serving as endorsements. The service prompted significant backlash from users who were concerned about privacy or simply reluctant to reveal information about their online purchases to their Facebook friends.

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