Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP
Meta Corporation, Facebook’s parent company, has agreed to pay $725 million to settle a class action lawsuit alleging it improperly shared users’ information with Cambridge Analytica, a data analysis firm used by the Trump campaign.
The proposed settlement is the result of revelations in 2018 that information of up to 87 million people may have been improperly accessed by the third-party company, which filed for bankruptcy in 2018. This is the largest recovery ever in a data privacy class action lawsuit and the most paid by Facebook to settle a private class action, Attorneys for the plaintiffs said in a court filing Thursday.
Meta has not admitted any wrongdoing and maintains that its users consented to the practices and suffered no actual damages. Meta spokeswoman Dina Al-Qasabi Luce said in a statement that the settlement is “in the best interest of its community and shareholders” and that the company has renewed its approach to privacy.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs said 250 to 280 million people may be eligible to receive payments as part of a class action settlement. The amount of individual payments depends on the number of people submitting valid claims.
“The amount of recovery is particularly staggering given that Facebook argued that its users consented to the practices in question, and that the dismissal suffered no actual damages,” said attorneys for the plaintiffs. He said in the court filing.
The leak of Facebook data to Cambridge Analytica has sparked backlash and government investigations into the company’s privacy practices in the past several years.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made high-profile testimony in 2020 before Congress and as part of a Federal Trade Commission privacy case for which Facebook also agreed to a $5 billion fine. The tech giant also agreed to pay $100 million to settle allegations by the US Securities and Exchange Commission that Facebook misled investors about the risks of misusing user data.
Facebook first became aware of the leak in 2015, attributing the breach to a Cambridge University psychology professor who harvested Facebook users’ data through an app to create a personality test and passed it on to Cambridge Analytica.
Cambridge Analytica has been in the business of creating psychological profiles of American voters so campaigns can tailor their bids to different people. The company was used by Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s 2016 campaign and later by former President Donald Trump’s campaign after he secured the Republican nomination.
According to a source close to the Trump campaign’s data operations, Cambridge Analytica staff did not use psychological profiling of his campaign but rather focused on more core goals, such as increasing online fundraising and outreach to undecided voters.
Whistleblower Christopher Wylie then exposed the company’s role in Brexit in 2019. He said Cambridge Analytica used Facebook user data to target people vulnerable to conspiracy theories and convince British voters to support Brexit. Former Trump advisor Steve Bannon was vice president, and US billionaire Robert Mercer owned a significant part of the company at the time.
The court has set a hearing for March 2, 2023, when a federal judge is expected to give final approval to the settlement.
NPR’s Bobby Allen contributed reporting.
#Facebook #parent #Meta #pay #million #settle #privacy #lawsuit #Cambridge #Analytica