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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Tech Judge Suddenly Stepped Down from Facebook Case

District Judge Lucy Koh, a woman who has made a name for herself ruling on controversial tech cases, has for some reason stepped down from overseeing a privacy lawsuit against the popular social network Facebook.

Media agencies confirm that the case has something to do with the social networking service’s “Sponsored Stories” feature. Lucy Koh was expected to hold a hearing on a proposed settlement a couple days ago.

Thus far, she hasn’t given a reason for her backing off, but usually this happens when a judge knows one of the parties or may otherwise feel that her or his impartiality might be called into question. However, if this were the case it would be very strange, because Lucy Koh had overseen the case since it landed in federal court back in 2011. The judge had also rejected social network’s attempts to dismiss the case.

Koh ruled that plaintiffs had shown economic injury could occur through the network’s use of their names, pictures and likenesses. 5 of the Facebook users claimed that Facebook’s “Sponsored Stories” feature had violated California law by publicizing members’ “likes” of specific advertisers without paying them or offering them a way to opt out. As far as we can understand, Facebook has agreed to allow members more control over how their personal data is used. The court papers filed in June said that the company will pay $20,000,000 to settle the case.

However, any settlement must be approved by a judge. That’s when Lucy Koh suddenly and for the reason only she knows vacated and recused and redacted herself in all pending dates for motions in the lawsuit, and asked that it be re-assigned to another judge.

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