(NEW YORK) — Facebook users who had an account at any time from May 2007 to the end of last year can now apply for their share of a $725 million privacy settlement that the platform’s parent company, Meta, agreed to last December.
In a 2018 lawsuit, Facebook was accused of improperly sharing the personal information of 87 million users with third-party advertisers, including Cambridge Analytica, the data firm linked to then-candidate Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Meta denies any liability or wrongdoing, but is agreeing to pay out the large settlement to users whose information may have been comprised during that time. ABC News Radio anchor Michelle Franzen spoke to ABC News correspondent Alexis Christoforous on START HERE to discuss the case’s background and how people can apply for their claim online at facebookuserprivacysettlement.com.
MICHELLE FRANZEN: Alexis, first of all, jog our collective memories on this lawsuit and how it impacted Facebook users at the time.
ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: So, you know, Michelle, this was quite a few years ago now. This lawsuit was filed in 2018 after Facebook disclosed that the information of 87 million users was improperly shared with third-party advertisers, data brokers, namely Cambridge Analytica. That is the political consultant that was used by the presidential campaign of Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz, among others. So in coming to this settlement, you know, Meta, which is the Facebook parent company, denies any liability or wrongdoing, but they are agreeing to pay out $725 million to users whose information may have been compromised during that time.
FRANZEN: So how much money could users receive and what do you have to do if you were a Facebook user to see if you’re due some sort of settlement money?
CHRISTOFOROUS: Well, I think we all hear $725 million and our ears perk up because that sounds like a lot of money. But the fact is, when you divvy it up amongst millions and millions of people, it’s not that much money anymore. So the amount of money that you might get from this claim is still unknown, because it’s going to depend on a couple of things: How many people actually submit a claim and then how long you had your Facebook account for given the years that, you know, make you eligible.
So I guess we should let folks know that you’re only eligible if you had an active Facebook account sometime between May of 2007 and December of 2022. You don’t have to have had it for all that time, just some of that time. You have until August 25 to submit a claim. You can do that right online. You have to go to a website. It’s facebookuserprivacysettlement.com. It’s long. You have to write it all out. Again, don’t expect the money super soon. It has to get final approval from a judge in early September. But at some point at the end of this year or next, your money should be coming to you.
FRANZEN: That span of time listed was during the height of Facebook, right?
CHRISTOFOROUS: It was, so, I mean, you would imagine that, you know, many, many millions of people, tens of millions of people. I mean, according to Facebook, its 87 million users had their information improperly shared with these third parties. So many millions of people could claim this money. And so the more people that tried to claim it, the less amount you would get. I mean, if all 87 million people tried to get a piece of the pie, you know, you’d probably walk away with about $8. But you know what, Michelle? That’s $8 you wouldn’t have had if you didn’t file the claim. That’s how I look at it.
FRANZEN: Exactly. That’s what Twitter is asking for for a month.
CHRISTOFOROUS: Exactly, exactly. So, you know, it’s also, I think the principle of the thing for lots of folks, they feel like, you know, you can’t just go willy-nilly and use my information without my consent, and these are privacy violations and so I want what’s coming to me.
FRANZEN: And those privacy violations that resulted in the CEO and the founder of Facebook and Meta, Mark Zuckerberg, having to go to Congress and testify.
CHRISTOFOROUS: That’s right. That was quite the media circus when Zuckerberg went before lawmakers to really defend his company. But, you know, again, with this settlement, they’re not admitting any wrongdoing, but it is their way to sort of, I guess, put a period at the end of this scandalous time for Facebook.
FRANZEN: And Alexis, this is a pretty big settlement, nearly as big as the $787.5 million dollars that Fox News just agreed to settle in a lawsuit by Dominion Voting Systems. Of course, Dominion alleging Fox knowingly pushed false claims about its voting machines during the 2020 election. What do these settlements signal as we turn the corner to the next general election?
CHRISTOFOROUS: Well, I think it tells us that, you know, people are a lot smarter this time around. I think they are much more careful about their personal information and they’re much more caged about how they’re going to let other entities use their personal information.
For companies like Meta, for companies like Fox, I mean, these sound like huge numbers, but when you look at the revenue that flows into these companies, I would imagine for them and their legal teams, they think that this is, you know, sort of the most prudent thing they can do is to settle for what seems like eye-popping amounts of money.
But for sure, I mean, I think privacy, integrity, I mean, these are going to be things that are going to be top of mind for voters in the upcoming election.
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