Facebook parent-company Meta, has agreed to pay $725 million (£600 million) to settle a lawsuit about a data breach linked to Cambridge Analytica.
In the long-running dispute, the British company said that the social media giant let third parties, like itself, look at the information of Facebook users.
Lawyers say the amount asked for is the most in a US class action over data privacy.
Meta didn’t say it did anything wrong, but it did say that it had changed how it handled privacy over the last three years.
In a statement, the company said that settling was in our community’s and shareholders’ best interests.
A tech expert named James Ball told the BBC that it wasn’t surprising that Meta had to pay a lot of money but that it wasn’t “that much” money for a tech giant.
The proposed settlement was written in a court document filed late Thursday. A federal judge in San Francisco needs to agree to it.
The complaint was made on behalf of a large group of people whose personal information on Facebook had been given to third parties without their permission.
The ruling says that the class size is between 250 million and 280 million people, which is the total number of Facebook users in the US from May 24, 2007, to December 22, 2022 (the “class period”).
Still being worked out is how the plaintiffs will get their share of the settlement.
Janis Wong, a privacy and ethics researcher at The Alan Turing Institute, said it would only cost two or three dollars for each person to make a claim.
There will be another hearing about the settlement on March 2, 2023.
At the heart of the Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal, which came to light in 2018, was that third-party apps could get personal information from Facebook users.
The consulting firm that no longer exists helped Donald Trump win the 2016 presidential election. They used information from millions of Facebook accounts in the US to make profiles of voters and send them ads.
This information was given to the company by a researcher whom Facebook let put an app on the platform that collected information from millions of users without their permission.
Facebook thinks the political consulting firm should have gotten information about fewer than 87 million people.
The scandal made the government look into how Facebook handles privacy, which led to lawsuits and a high-profile US congressional hearing where Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Meta, was questioned.
In 2019, Facebook agreed to pay the Federal Trade Commission $5 billion to end an investigation into how it handled people’s personal information.
The tech giant also paid $100 million to settle claims by the US Securities and Exchange Commission that it had lied to investors about how it used people’s information.
State attorneys are still looking into the case, and the company is fighting a lawsuit filed by the attorney general for Washington, DC.
Facebook thought that the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica got information about up to 87 million people without permission. This was a lot more than what had been said up to this point.
It was said that about 1.1 million of them live in the UK.
The person who leaked the information, Christopher Wylie, said the total amount was $50 million.
Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, said, “It’s clear that we should have done more, and we will from now on.”
During a press conference, he said he used to think that if Facebook gave people tools, it was mostly up to them to figure out how to use them.
But when he looked back, he said that was “wrong” and that he should not have had such a narrow view.
Why is everyone so upset?
Facebook has gotten a lot of criticism after it was found out that Cambridge Analytica had been collecting information on millions of its users for years but that Facebook had trusted the London-based company to self-certify that the data had been deleted.
Cambridge Analytica said that it bought the information from the creator of the This Is Your Digital Life app without knowing that it had been collected illegally.
The company says that as soon as it discovered what was happening, it got rid of all the information.
But Channel 4 News said that at least some of the data in question is still being shared, even though Cambridge Analytica said it had gotten rid of the information.
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During Mr. Zuckerberg’s press conference, Cambridge Analytica tweeted that it only got information on 30 million people from the app’s creator, not 87 million and that it had deleted all of the records.
Mike Schroepfer, the chief technology officer of the tech company, wrote in a blog how many people’s data had been exposed and how many people’s data had been exposed.
The BBC also found out that Facebook thinks about 305,000 people have installed the This Is Your Digital Life quiz, which is how the data was collected. The number 270,000 had already been saying.
About 97% of them were in the United States. But just over 16 million affected users are considered to be from other countries.