Facebook’s parent company is set to pay $725 million in order to settle a now four-year-old lawsuit where it was accused of allowing Cambridge Analytica as well as other entities to access the personal information of individual users, essentially violating its own measures for user privacy across all its platforms.
Plaintiffs in the suit say that Meta’s pending settlement could be the largest ever for a class action, specifically one for data privacy, as well as the largest amount Facebook stands to pay to settle a private class action.
The motion to approve the settlement was filed last December 21st, 2022, and around 250 to 280 million Facebook users may be eligible for payments. At present, the settlement is awaiting final approval; a judge will hear the motion in March of this year.
In the Community’s Best Interest
According to a statement issued by Meta, the company opted to follow through with the settlement, seeing it as the best way forward for its online community, as well as its stakeholders.
Company spokesperson Dina Luce explained that, over a three-year period, Meta implemented a more comprehensive privacy program in order to protect its users’ private information. Luce added that Meta is set to offer a number of new services to its users even as it puts greater emphasis on protecting their privacy.
While Meta has not admitted to any faults as part of its pending settlement, the users who filed the initial suit remarked that Facebook made a number of vital changes following the Cambridge Analytical scandal. These include restrictions on third-party access to user data and an overall improvement in the way data use and sharing is communicated to users.
What Came Before
The root of this issue was a leak involving a psychology professor who used an online personality test to harvest the personal data of several million Facebook users. The harvested information was turned over to Cambridge Analytica, a company that claimed they could use proprietary techniques to affect the results of a crucial presidential election. The candidate who eventually won the election took a bare lead in a number of critical states.
In 2020, the United Kingdom’s Information Commission took a closer look at Cambridge Analytica’s alleged services, noting that a number of its capabilities were grossly exaggerated. By then, however, the way Facebook user data was shared opened numerous investigations leading to several lawsuits over the past several years.
The resulting scandal led to protests across the globe, as well as a number of court hearings, changes to Meta’s privacy policies, and an apology tour on the part of Meta chief Mark Zuckerberg.
Prior to the upcoming settlement, Facebook previously agreed to a $5 billion privacy settlement with the US Federal Trade Commission in 2019, as well as another settlement worth $100 million with the US Securities and Exchange Commission following allegations that it deliberately misled investors about the way it used user data..