Meta $725M Cambridge Analytica Settlement Moves Forward

Meta Platforms has agreed to pay $725 million to settle a 2018 class action lawsuit initiated by Facebook users who said their personal data was breached in an incident involving UK-based political consultancy Cambridge Analytica. The proposed amount would reportedly be the largest settlement in a U.S. data privacy class action. Although Meta is not admitting to any wrongdoing as part of the settlement, the firm says it has over the past three years “revamped” its approach to privacy. Lawyers for the plaintiffs called the proposal a “historic settlement” that will provide meaningful relief in a “complex and novel” case.

CNBC reports that federal “judges overseeing the case in the Northern District of California will now have to approve the settlement.” The next court proceeding on the settlement is expected to take place March 2.

Tech author and journalist James Ball tells BBC News it is no surprise that Meta has agreed to the payout, contextualizing the proposed amount is “less than a tenth” of what Meta spent on its metaverse efforts in 2022 and “not that much” money to the tech giant, while still enough to “stand as a warning to social media companies that mistakes can prove very costly indeed.”

The class size is somewhere in the range of 250-280 million people who used Facebook during May 2007 to December 2022, which translates to about “two or three dollars per person if each individual decided to make a claim,” BBC News reports.

According to Alan Turing Institute privacy and ethics researcher Janis Wong, “even though this $725 million settlement doesn’t cover UK users, earlier this year a competition law expert put forward a multi-billion dollar class action suit against Meta regarding users’ data exploitation” on that matter, which the UK Competition Appeal Tribunal is expected to rule on later this year.

The Guardian says the $725 million U.S. settlement would be “10 percent higher again than the next largest — also awarded against Facebook, for signing up users to facial recognition services without their consent.”

The harvesting of Facebook users’ personal data by the now-defunct Cambridge Analytica for 2016 presidential campaign ad targeting on behalf of the Trump campaign is also the subject of an ongoing class action lawsuit filed in District of Columbia Superior Court in December 2018 by former D.C. attorney general Karl Racine, who in May 2022 filed a separate suit against Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, seeking to hold him personally liable for the breach, according to the Associated Press.

Meta tentatively agreed to the $725 million federal settlement in August 2022. Reuters, the first to report the plaintiffs motioned the court to accept Meta’s offer, includes a link to the court filing.

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