A Facebook Windfall Can’t Even Buy An IMAX 3D Movie Ticket

I’m all about the Hamiltons.

Do you have a windfall in your pocket?  According to Facebook, you probably do.  And if you’re part of a lucky group of 600,000 you’re getting closer to another windfall.  That’s like two windfalls, all for you!  Excited?  You shouldn’t be.

Facebook seems to have an entirely different definition of windfall than you do.  That is, if you have a definition of windfall.  If it’s been more than three years since you took the SAT or read a Charles Dickens novel, chances are you don’t have a definition at hand.  No worries, I’ve grabbed this one from The free Dictionary.

windfall: A sudden, unexpected piece of good fortune or personal gain.

Most people learn this definition and also associate it with something substantial such as winning the lottery or inheriting a sizable fortune from a distant relative that you never knew but who quietly observed you from afar and wanted to give you a ton of money.  Having millions of dollars one day that you didn’t have before, that’s a windfall by anyone’s definition.

Facebook says a windfall is $10.

Don’t get me wrong, there are many people who would love to have an extra $10.  And in many countries $10 can buy you a lot.  But the Facebook conversation is only for US residents and $10, while very nice, isn’t something you’re going to do backflips over.  It isn’t enough for a new console video game.  You can’t use ten bucks to buy a ticket to see Man of Steel in IMAX 3D (although you should go see it anyway because so good!).  Heck, $10 isn’t even enough to rent Cloud Atlas on Blu-Ray for a week from Redbox (yes, it will take you a week to watch it).

The $10 comes from the proposed settlement over Facebook’s Sponsored Stories which initially used Facebook users’ names and pictures without their consent and potentially outside of their network of friends.  The proposal was to set up a $20 million fund and have people opt in to receiving a payment.  Anyone who opted in would receive up to $10.  But if so many people signed up that the payment would be $5 or less (lawyers don’t do math but my Google Caculator formula says that would happen if more than 4 million people signed up) then all of the money would be given to some educational funds to teach kids about the risks of social media or something silly like that.

The process to sign up started in January and it turns out that only about 600,000 people signed up.  Full disclosure, I signed up.  So now I get to be Better Off Dead “I want my $2!” kid but five times as obnoxious (yes, Google Calculator confirmed this result).  Despite being involved in the settlement process, Facebook says my $10 is a windfall and I should feel bad about my six days of time skipping Tom Hanks in high definition.

Facebook’s point is that I didn’t do anything to earn that amount, which may be true.  But they also may have done the wrong thing by using my name and photo in connection with marketing activities without my consent.  Maybe.  Without the entire lawsuit, there’s no way to know for sure–but that’s the point of a class action settlement like this.  You avoid all the expense and hassle of a long, protracted legal battle and move on with your business.  Maybe you spent more than you would have if you won the case, but probably you spent less than if you lost.  That’s the fun of class action settlements–you never really know the answer and you never feel good about it.  Pretty much like every Bar exam taking by an attorney.

Facebook has already changed their terms and privacy settings to accommodate Sponsored Stories.  They are still supporting this settlement, but they can’t resist the parting shot to say that they’re giving away more money than they should.  So be it.  Now they can begrudgingly hand me my Hamilton and hopefully the next time they create a new marketing opportunity they’ll update their privacy settings first.  If not, then we can all look forward to a third windfall in a few years.


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Filed under Commercial Activity, Consumer Protection, Facebook, Social Content, Social Marketing, Social Media and the Law, Social Platforms, Terms and Conditions

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