Thursday, December 10, 2009

Facebook launches Foundation. Or not.

On the same day that it unleashed new default privacy settings on its hundreds of millions of users I learned that Facebook has also launched a foundation to address online privacy issues. Ironically (or not) the foundation results from a lawsuit against the company about...wait for it...privacy issues.

Ethan Zuckerman's blog points out several additional layers of irony about the situation. These include the decreased level of privacy the company seems to be offering in its new suggested privacy settings. Also in the irony column - you have to opt out of the class in the class action lawsuit (which was about opting out versus opting in).

I'll stick to philanthropy ironies - this one pointed out by a digital media lawyer (David D. Johnson who blogs at Digital Media Lawyer Blog:
"Rather, this sum is to be used to help "Facebook . . . form and establish" a non-profit "Privacy Foundation", to fund projects that promote the cause of online privacy, safety and security. While the foundation is to be a separate entity, Facebook gets to nominate one and gets equal say on the nomination of the second of the three members on the foundation board of directors....
What a deal! Facebook is already required by law to promote the online privacy, safety and security of its users' information.
So Facebook effectively gets most of its money back to fund projects that it is already has an obligation to perform. [emphasis added]"
Another irony - while the lawsuit was settled in September 2009 I can't find any sign on the Internet that the foundation yet exists. Lots of legal blogs explain what the Foundation is court-ordered to do, but I don't find data trails that it has been established yet. So Internet time may apply to product launches, but doesn't seem to apply to creating Internet-fueled, legally mandated foundations. (If I'm wrong about this, the foundation does exist, and I just failed to find it online, please let me know). I won't even get into the irony of setting up a new foundation focused on Internet privacy rather than directing the money to any one or a combination of the existing nonprofits that already do that work. Bah humbug.

This sum to the foundation, by the way, is a little more than $6 million, not the full $9.5 million that was ordered to settle the case. The missing $3.5 million goes to the lawyers, the claim administrators and a small sum (really small, $46,000 divided by 19) goes to the plaintiffs.

Probably because the dollar amount is relatively small, this philanthropic buyout has not stirred as much animosity as some other recent donations. But I wonder if we may be entering a phase of philanthropic backlash.....?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting approach - backlash philanthropy! Wonder how effective this is - compared to say, lethal generosity.