By: Giulia Lima
It is common for many daily users of social media platforms, like Facebook, to just accept the lengthy terms and agreement without reading them. This current legal situation should put users on high alert to what they are agreeing to and what they are allowing these companies to do with their information.
This lawsuit began several years ago with the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Cambridge Analytica is a British political consulting firm that utilized the personal information from millions of Facebook accounts obtained from Aleksandr Kogan to send targeted political messages throughout the 2016 presidential campaign. Facebook allows for users to have access to various applications and apps on their platform in order to play video games, read the news, or watch videos. While users were aware that these app developers may have access to their information, such as name and picture, they were given access to much more. The app developers were able to obtain information about the users utilizing their app, as well as information about the users’ friends on Facebook that their individual accounts had access to. This leads the app developers to obtain information from multiple users who did not give their consent and did not even interact with the app themselves. The information they were able to obtain may have been intended to be shared only with a limited audience but now the data was being collected and put in a database which could be distributed to others. Aleksandr Kogan created a Facebook app where users could take a personality test. While only around 300,000 people downloaded his app, he was about to obtain the information of roughly 87 million Facebook users. Kogan then sold this database to Cambridge Analytica who was then able to send targeted political ads to voters based on their personal information.
After the Cambridge Analytica scandal came to light and it was made clear that this practice was very normal, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) launched an investigation. Facebook eventually settled this matter by paying a $5 billion fine and sought to change their corporate structure to protect the privacy of their users. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg came forward with multiple public apologies and even took out full-page ads in newspapers to repeat the apology. Multiple lawsuits were filed against Facebook by their many users and the court eventually consolidated the suits into a class action complaint. The case also expanded the scope to not only encompass Facebook’s conduct with Cambridge Analytica, but rather “Facebook’s wider information-sharing practices.”
The complaint focused on four main categories of Facebook’s wrongdoings. These categories include: (1) giving app developers access to sensitive user information, (2) continued disclosure to whitelisted apps, (3) sharing sensitive user information with business partners, and (4) failure to restrict the use of sensitive information.
The parties began discovery in 2019, but Facebook continuously fought what they should be required to produce. The court determined it was not in the best position to keep adjudicating the multiple discovery disputes among the parties, so it referred them to “then-Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley for discovery.” Disagreements continued, and Judge Corley suggested that they engage in a discovery mediator to help resolve their disputes. They selected retired Judge Gail Andler, who brought a colleague Danial Garrie to help in the technical aspects of discovery. At this point it had already been two and a half years of discovery disputes, mostly due to Facebook’s fault, and the Plaintiffs asked the court to continue the discovery deadlines. However, the court suggests the Plaintiffs move for sanctions. The Plaintiffs filed a motion for sanctions and then in August of 2022 the parties notified the court they had settled the suit.
The plaintiffs state in the motion for sanctions that Facebook and Gibson Dunn had a wide range of misconduct throughout discovery. The plaintiffs ask the court that Facebook and Gibson Dunn be ordered to pay them $925,078.51 in sanctions and it is ordered.
Facebook ultimately made a motion for settlement, and they are awaiting the court’s approval which is set to occur on March 2, 2023. After four years of litigation, the parties have reached a proposed settlement of $725,000,000.00; which “is the largest recovery ever achieved in a data privacy class action and the most Facebook has ever paid to resolve a private class action.” The court must ultimately determine if this settlement is “fundamentally fair, Adequate and reasonable.” The plaintiffs’ lawyers state that the amount of this recovery is striking due to Facebook arguing that its users consented to the practices at issue and that the class suffered no actual damages. Furthermore, Meta did not admit any wrongdoings but simply states that the settlement was “in the best interest of its community and shareholders.” About 250 million to 280 million people may be eligible for payments from this class action settlement so it is anticipated that many will be on the lookout as to whether the federal judge gives the settlement final approval on March 2nd.
It will be interesting to see how this settlement shapes the conversation of privacy on social media platforms going forward. Many companies are likely to be more careful with their practices in order to avoid big payouts like this. While many users may be more aware of the information they are putting out on the internet.
About the Author
Giulia Lima is a second-year law student at Widener University Delaware Law School and is a Staff Editor on the Delaware Journal of Corporate Law. She received her B.B.A. from Widener University with a major in International Business and minor in Marketing. During her time in law school, she has interned at the NJ Attorney General’s office and has served as Vice President of the Women’s Law Caucus as well as Vice President of Public Relations of the Student Bar Association. Giulia enjoys traveling and learning about new cultures. After law school she hopes to put her love for business and the law together in the corporate legal world.
 Credit for Title image goes to geralt. geralt, Facebook, in Pixabay, https://pixabay.com/illustrations/facebook-social-media-web-network-1905890/.
 In re Facebook, Inc., Consumer Priv. User Profile Litig. (Facebook I), 402 F. Supp. 3d 767, 777 (N.D. Cal. 2019).
 Id. at 779.
 Id. at 780.
 Facebook I, 402 F. Supp. at 780.
 Facebook I, 402 F. Supp. at 780.
 In re Facebook, Inc. Consumer Priv. User Profile Litig. (Facebook II), No. 18-MD-02843-VC, 2023 WL 1871107, at *2 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 9, 2023).
 Id. at *3.
 Facebook I, 402 F. Supp. 3d at 778.
 Id. at 779.
 Id. at 779-81.
 Facebook II, 2023 WL 1871107, at *3.
 Id. at *4.
 Facebook II, 2023 WL 1871107, at *4.
 Id. at *30.
 Mot. to Cert. Settlement Class at 1, In re Facebook, Inc. Consumer Priv. User Profile Litig., No. 18-MD-02843-VC (N.D. Cal. Feb. 9, 2023).
 Id. at 3.
 Id. at 4.
 Ashley Ahn, Facebook parent Meta will pay $725M to settle a privacy suit over Cambridge Analytica, NPR (Feb. 20, 2023), https://www.npr.org/2022/12/23/1145303268/facebook-meta-cambridge-analytica-privacy-settlement.