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Meta, Facebook owner has agreed to pay $725 million (£600 million) to settle a lawsuit over 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 information about Facebook users.
Lawyers say that this is the most money that has ever been asked for in a US class action about data privacy.
Meta didn’t say it did anything wrong, but it did say that it had changed how it handled privacy over the past three years.
In a statement, the company said that settling was in the best interests of our community and shareholders.
James Ball, a tech expert, told the BBC that it was “not a surprise” that Meta had to pay a lot of money but that it wasn’t “that much” money for a tech giant.
The proposed settlement, written in a court filing late Thursday, needs to be approved by a federal judge in San Francisco.
The complaint was made on behalf of a large group of people whose personal information on Facebook was given to third parties without their permission.
The ruling document says that the class size is between 250 and 280 million people, which is the total number of Facebook users in the US during the “class period” of May 24, 2007, to December 22, 2022.
How the plaintiffs will get their share of the settlement is still being worked out.
Janis Wong, a privacy and ethics researcher at The Alan Turing Institute, said that if each person decided to make a claim, it would only cost two or three dollars.
On March 2, 2023, there will be another hearing about the settlement.
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 now-defunct consulting firm worked on Donald Trump’s successful 2016 presidential campaign. They used personal information from millions of US Facebook accounts to profile and target voters.
The company got this information from a researcher who Facebook permitted to put an app on the platform that collected data from millions of users without their permission.
Facebook thinks that the political consulting firm got information about up to 87 million people that shouldn’t have been given to them.
The scandal caused the government to 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 $5 billion to end an investigation into its privacy practices at the Federal Trade Commission.
The tech giant also paid $100 million to settle claims by the US Securities and Exchange Commission that it 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 brought by the attorney general for Washington, DC.
Facebook scandal affected “87 million users”
Facebook thought that the data of up to 87 million people was given to the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica without permission. This was a lot more than had been saying before.
About 1.1 million of them live in the UK, it was said.
Christopher Wylie, the man who leaked the information, had said that the total amount was $50 million.
Mark Zuckerberg, the 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 that he used to think that if Facebook gave people tools, it was mostly up to them to figure out how to use them.
But he said that, looking back, and it was “wrong” to have such a narrow view.
What is the Cambridge Analytica about?
Facebook has come under a lot of fire after it was revealed that it had known for years that Cambridge Analytica had collected information on millions of its users but had trusted the London-based company to self-certify that the information 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 gathered illegally.
The company says it got rid of all the information as soon as it knew what was happening.
But Channel 4 News said that at least some of the data in question is still being passed around, 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 had only gotten 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, said 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 what allowed the data to be collected. The number 270,000 had been mentioned before.
The US was home to about 97% of the installations. But it’s thought that just over 16 million of the users affected are from other countries.