Web publishers are notorious for violating our privacy, and news organizations are no exception. Now, though, one of those organizations, The Boston Globe, is being held to account. The paper has agreed to a $5 million settlement of a lawsuit brought by a California man named David Ambrose over the Globe’s practice of hoovering up the identifying information of users who watch videos on its website and sending it to Facebook.
The proposed settlement, now pending in U.S. District Court, would encompass $4 million to compensate subscribers, who could receive $22 to $44 apiece, and another $1 million to extend the subscriptions of affected users for one week. News of the proposed settlement was first reported Friday evening by Adam Gaffin of Universal Hub. The Globe has denied any wrongdoing.
Before paid digital subscriptions overtook free news, it was understood that the only way news organizations could make money online was to barrage readers with popups, pop-unders, autoplay digital ads and other forms of obnoxious, intrusive commercial messages. That set up a downward spiral, with users fleeing and news orgs ratcheting up the ads even more. You’d think those days would be in the past — but they’re not.
Now that the Globe has agreed to end one of those privacy-violating practices, I hope the paper’s business-side executives will think about how much inconvenience and privacy violations they want to inflict on their digital subscribers, who pay an industry-high $30 a month. I hope other news outlets take heed as well.