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Privacy breach: Facebook forced to pay out over unauthorised use of user data

A US court has ruled in favour of Facebook users once again in another privacy breach by the site, reports The Independent.

The case, first brought to action in 2011, related to the 'sponsored stories' element of the Facebook site. It occurred that users who 'liked' a particular brand could potentially then have their data used by the company in advertisements on the social networking platform.

Data used by companies appear to have been users' names and photographs. Users did not give their permission for these companies to handle their personal information or pictures.

On Monday, US judge Richard Seeborg ordered Facebook to compensate victims for this privacy breach. However, both the presiding judge and Facebook have commented that the affected users were not harmed by the breach. Judge Seeborg stated that the users "faced a substantial burden in showing they were injured by the Sponsored Stories". Yet, there was a breach of privacy, hence the court finding in favour of the users.

The total sum payable in compensation amounts to $20 million. Nonetheless, each affected user will only receive $15 each. The $20 million will be split amongst users, lawyers and not-for-profit advocacy groups.

Commenting on the outcome of the case, Judge Seeborg stated: "Although the monetary relief to each class member is relatively small and the percentage of class members who submitted claims is limited, the settlement as a whole provides fair, reasonable, and adequate relief to the class, in light of all the circumstances."

He refers to the fact that the users whose names and photographs were used had in fact agreed to share those details with friends, and companies using them were only sharing them again with the same audience.

In addition to the payout, Facebook has been ordered to update its Statement of Rights and Responsibilities for its users and provide users with more information on any future schemes such as this.