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 disclaims any liability or wrongdoing, but agrees to pay out the large settlement to users whose information may have been affected during that time. ABC News Radio anchor Michelle Franzen spoke with ABC News correspondent Alexis Christoforous on START HERE to discuss the background of the case and how people can file their claim online at facebookuserprivacysettlement.com.
MICHELLE FRANZEN: Alexis, first of all, jog our collective memories of this lawsuit and how it affected Facebook users at the time.
ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: So, you know, Michelle, this was quite a few years ago now. This lawsuit was filed in 201[ads1]8 after Facebook revealed that the information of 87 million users was improperly shared with third-party advertisers, data brokers, namely Cambridge Analytica. It is the political consultant used by the presidential campaign of, among others, Donald Trump and Senator Ted Cruz. So when you get to this settlement, you know, Meta, which is Facebook’s parent company, denies any liability or wrongdoing, but they agree to pay out $725 million to users whose information may have been compromised during that time.
FRANZEN: So how much money can users receive and what would you have to do if you were a Facebook user to see if you have any kind 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 divide it up among millions and millions of people, it’s not that much money anymore. So how much money you can 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 given the years you know do you qualified.
So I guess we should tell people that you’re only eligible if you had an active Facebook account sometime between May 2007 and December 2022. You don’t have to have had it all the time, just a few times. You have until 25 August to submit a claim. You can do it right online. You need to go to a website. It’s facebookuserprivacysettlement.com. It is long. You must print everything out. Again, don’t expect the money very soon. It must receive final approval from a judge in early September. But sometime at the end of this year or next, your money should come to you.
FRANZEN: The time period listed was during the height of Facebook, right?
CHRISTOFOROUS: It was, so I mean, you can imagine that, you know, many, many millions of people, tens of millions of people. I mean, according to Facebook, the 87 million users had their information shared with these third parties in the wrong way. So many millions of people can claim this money. And the more people 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 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 a lot of people, they feel, you know, you can’t just go off and use my information without my consent, and this is a violation of privacy and so I want that as coming to me.
FRANZEN: And the privacy breaches that resulted in the CEO and founder of Facebook and Meta, Mark Zuckerberg, having to go to Congress and testify.
CHRISTOFOROUS: That’s right. It 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’s their way of kind of, I guess, putting an end to this scandalous era for Facebook.
FRANZEN: And Alexis, this is a pretty big settlement, almost as big as the $787.5 million that Fox News just agreed to settle in a lawsuit by Dominion Voting Systems. Of course, Dominion claimed that Fox deliberately 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 that tells us that people are a lot smarter this time. I think they are much more careful about personal information and they are much more careful about how 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 flowing into these companies, I would imagine that for them and their legal teams, they believe that this is, you know, the most sensible thing for them to do is 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.