American users of Facebook could be in for a small payout as Meta has agreed to pay $725 million to settle a class action lawsuit linked to the Cambridge Analytica data harvesting scandal. It's the "largest recovery ever achieved in a data privacy class action and the most Facebook has ever paid to resolve a private class action," law firm Keller Rohrback LLP said in revealing the settlement in a Thursday court filing, per CNBC. Users sued Facebook in 2018 after it revealed data on 87 million users was improperly shared with the now-shuttered data firm Cambridge Analytica, which had been hired to work on Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign. The suit was later broadened to focus on Facebook's data-sharing practices at large.
The lawsuit alleged the social media platform "granted numerous third parties access to their Facebook content and information without their consent, and that Facebook failed to adequately monitor the third parties' access to, and use of, that information," the law firm said, per CNBC. All Facebook users in the US from May 24, 2007, through to Thursday, an estimated 250 million to 280 million people, are considered plaintiffs in the suit, per the BBC. Each would be entitled to roughly $2 if the settlement is approved by a federal judge in the Northern District of California as lawyers are seeking about 25% of the payout, or $181 million, to cover their fees, per Reuters.
A rep for Facebook's parent company, which did not admit wrongdoing, said a settlement was "in the best interest of our community and shareholders," while stressing the changes made to its "approach to privacy" since 2018. Technology journalist and author James Ball tells the BBC that the company "probably won't be too unhappy with this deal" as the proposed payout is "less than a tenth of what it spent on its efforts to create 'the metaverse' last year alone." Meta's revenue totalled almost $118 billion in 2021. Facebook previously reached a $100 million settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission and was fined $5 billion by the FTC. Another class action lawsuit against Meta has been filed in the UK. (Read more Meta stories.)