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Whatever Facebook settlement payment you might get, it's not enough

People who used Facebook between 2007 and 2022 may be eligible for settlement funds tied to a lawsuit about its handling of user data. But we should demand more.


Have you used Facebook in the last 16 years? If so, you may be eligible to collect some cash from the social media giant as part of a settlement in a class-action lawsuit alleging privacy violations.

As CNBC reported Wednesday

Facebook users have until August to claim their share of a $725 million class-action settlement of a lawsuit alleging privacy violations by the social media company, a new website reveals. The lawsuit was prompted in 2018 after Facebook disclosed that the information of 87 million users was improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica. People who had an active U.S. Facebook account between May 2007 and December 2022 have until Aug. 25 to enter a claim. Individual settlement payments haven’t yet been established because payouts depend on how many users submit claims and how long each user maintained a Facebook account.

Here’s the site where you can submit a claim.

Let’s refresh your memory a bit and recollect how Facebook got to this point: Cambridge Analytica was a data-mining firm linked to Steve Bannon that was hired by Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign to conduct voter profiling and help target potential voters. Largely without their consent, the firm had access to millions of Facebook users' personal information.

The firm disbanded in 2018 amid intense media and congressional scrutiny over its data-harvesting practices. But questions still remain about what, precisely, that data was ultimately used to do. A Cambridge Analytica whistleblower suggested the data was intended, at least in part, to help determine whether and how effectively social media could be used to discourage Black people from voting in an effort to help the Trump campaign.

And, of course, we know the Russia-backed Internet Research Agency waged a social media ad campaign, largely on Facebook, designed to dissuade Black people from voting for Hillary Clinton and, in some instances, from voting at all. 

The point is, the threat of data misuse facilitated on social media platforms carries severe repercussions. And Congress should see this Facebook settlement as a clear calling to pass strong data protection laws that hold social media companies accountable. (FYI: This isn't the first time Facebook will pay out a large sum of money to account for its pitiful track record when it comes to user data.)

For victims of data misuse or mishandling — say, people targeted with illiberal propaganda — the cost (privacy and security) exceeds any dollar amount Facebook can put on a settlement. 

And honestly, court settlements in which tech giants like Facebook admit no wrongdoing, and face virtually no legal requirement to improve, likely aren't strong enough to discourage similar failures in the future. 

Perhaps, if Congress wasn't so obsessed with banning TikTok, it would realize that the issues with social media are far more widespread.