Facebook Wins Appeal in Privacy Class Action

Munger, Tolles & Olson lawyers won an appellate victory for Facebook in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which affirmed a California federal court judge’s approval of a $20 million settlement in a privacy class action.

The nationwide class claimed that Facebook used its members’ names and profile pictures in advertisements without permission, allegedly in violation of California law. The class members argued that by “liking” a company page on Facebook, their names, profile pictures, likenesses or identities could be used to promote that company on Facebook without their knowledge or consent.

On Jan. 6, 2016, the Ninth Circuit agreed with Munger Tolles lawyers that the district court did not abuse its discretion in August 2013 when it granted approval of the settlement. Though plaintiffs argued they were entitled to recover a $750 statutory penalty per class member, the district court approved the class settlement, which resulted in an award of $15 being paid to each claiming class member. On appeal, several objectors argued that the settlement was unfair to class members and wrongly allowed Facebook to continue to engage in social advertising that the objectors believed violated the law. In its 2-1 ruling, the panel rejected these arguments and affirmed the district court’s approval, holding that the settlement was reasonable given the “minimal (if any) harm” suffered by the Facebook users, which included a subclass of minors.

The Munger Tolles lawyers representing Facebook in its appeal include Kristin Linsley Myles, Daniel B. Levin and Joshua Patashnik.