Meta, the parent company of Facebook, has agreed to pay out $725 million as part of a settlement for a privacy lawsuit that stemmed from the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The former British political consulting company reportedly accessed the personal information of approximately 87 million Facebook users in 2018, which they used to target voters during the 2016 US presidential campaign. Users who held Facebook accounts from May 2007 to December 2022 are now eligible to apply for a share of the settlement funds.
To apply, individuals can either submit their forms online or send them by mail before the deadline of August 25th. The application form requires users to provide their personal information, such as name, address, contact information, birthday, Facebook handle, and payment information.
Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, faced scrutiny from the US Congress on account of the scandal. The members accused the social media platform of failing to protect user data. The settlement represents one of the world’s largest privacy-related payouts, reflecting the severity of the allegations leveled against Facebook.
In the words of Meta’s general counsel, “We are pleased to have reached a settlement in this case, which we believe is fair and reasonable.”
The settlement amount will be split among eligible users, with individual payouts varying based on the number of valid claims. The company also committed to tightening its data protection policies and implementing measures to prevent instances of data misuse.
According to the lawsuit, Facebook was accused of not monitoring third-party access to user data or use of that data. This legal action was taken after it was discovered in 2018 that Cambridge Analytica had obtained private information from millions of Facebook users’ profiles without their consent, in one of the biggest data breaches in Facebook’s history. As a result, Cambridge Analytica was able to use the social media activity of millions of users in the United States to create voter profiles that were then used to assist Donald J. Trump’s 2016 campaign.
Meta previously denied any wrongdoing, but the company agreed to settle the lawsuit by setting aside $725 million for claimants. Claimants will receive one point for each month they had an activated Facebook account. The total number of points assigned to all claimants will be calculated and then divided by the net settlement amount, which is $725 million minus administrative costs and other fees, in order to determine the amount of money available for each point. Each claimant will receive the amount multiplied by the number of points they were assigned.
It’s important to note that Meta’s directors and legal representatives are not eligible for the settlement, and users have until August 25 to file their claims by filling out their mailing addresses, email addresses, phone numbers and Facebook user names, and confirming their use of Facebook between May 24, 2007 and Dec. 22, 2022. The final hearing to approve the settlement is scheduled for September 7 in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.
As Meta continues to face scrutiny over privacy concerns on its social media platforms, the company has recently announced that it will be introducing more tools to protect user privacy. However, the settlement for this lawsuit serves as a reminder of the importance of user privacy and the consequences that companies may face if they fail to protect it.
As stated on the settlement’s website, “Users who participated in Facebook’s service between May 24, 2007 and December 22, 2022 must be given proper control over sharing their personal information with third parties. This settlement is a reminder that we must enforce our rights to privacy.”