Lawyers win again in latest privacy class-action settlement


Twitter, Yelp, Instagram, Foursquare and a few other apps are agreeing to a $5.3 million settlement to an invasion-of-privacy class action in which the companies' apps were accused of accessing the address books of iOS users without their knowledge or consent. About 30 percent of the deal likely will go to the lawyers who sued—about $1.59 million. The remainder is earmarked for the estimated 7 million members of the class. If distributed evenly, that's about 53 cents for each class member—and within the ballpark of distribution ratios of other Silicon Valley privacy class-action settlements.

The lawsuit (PDF) was filed in 2012 and alleged that the apps engaged in "unconscionable, illegal practices" because iOS users' contacts "have now been accessed and stolen." The suit originally claimed that "each" class member was entitled to hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in damages. The suit was filed after The New York Times and others reported of the privacy breaches, which even attracted the attention of Congress and the Federal Trade Commission.

If the deal (PDF) is approved by a San Francisco federal judge, payments will be sent to the Amazon accounts of class members. Checks will be sent to those who insist upon that method of payment. Unclaimed funds will go to the civil rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

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