A notorious Facebook blunder has become a boon for online-privacy advocates.
To settle a lawsuit alleging privacy violations, the social-networking giant is pledging to invest $6-million to start a grant-making foundation focused on promoting online privacy, according to a settlement made public this week. Chris Hoofnagle, director of the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology’s information-privacy programs, will be one of the new foundation’s three board members.
Mr. Hoofnagle wouldn’t get specific about the foundation’s plans, because the board hasn’t met yet. But he expressed excitment about the windfall to support “pro-consumer privacy work.”
“I’m particularly interested in supporting groups with a strong record on consumer-privacy issues, and those who need resources to create usable privacy-enhancing technologies,” he said in an e-mail message to Wired Campus.
The lawsuit stemmed from Facebook’s Beacon behavior-tracking technology. The controversial program infuriated some users because it posted information on Facebook — without their permission — about things they bought on third-party Web sites.
According to Wired, the lead plaintiff’s wife learned about a surprise gift her husband was planning through this message shared to all his Facebook friends: “Sean Lane bought 14k White Gold 1/5 ct Diamond Eternity Flower Ring from overstock.com.”
The company eventually discontinued Beacon.
As for the new privacy center, Wired reports that it will “fund and sponsor programs designed to educate users, regulators, and enterprises regarding critical issues relating to protection of identity and personal information online through user control, and to protect users from online threats.”