Facebook’s owner, Meta, agreed Friday to pay a $725 million class action lawsuit settlement over the 2018 Cambridge Analytica scandal—the largest data privacy sum in history, according to lawyers speaking with the BBC. In exchange, Facebook will not be required to admit any wrongdoing regarding its role in facilitating the mishandling of over 87 million users’ personal data via third-party companies.
One of those businesses, the now-defunct Cambridge Analytica, became a focal point of the Big Tech controversy for its leverage of a relatively obscure app’s trove of personal user information. Despite only 300,000 people installing an app called This Is Your Digital Life, its access to users’ friend networks allowed it to build a vast set of voter “psychoanalytic profiles,” which it then sold to both Ted Cruz’s and Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaigns.
The ensuing fallout prompted numerous congressional hearings involving Meta (then just Facebook) CEO Mark Zuckerberg, alongside an eventual $5 billion fine paid to the Federal Trade Commission in 2019 to settle its own privacy investigations. As Engadget details, additional fines have also included a $100 million Securities and Exchange Commission settlement, alongside a roughly $644,000 fine paid in the UK—a number that would have been much steeper if the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) law had already gone into effect.
Meta’s legal woes surrounding the Cambridge Analytica scandal are far from over, however, as it faces an ongoing lawsuit by the Washington DC attorney general, as well as other lawsuits on various issues from multiple state attorneys general.
Despite all this, the newest $725 million fine is paltry to a massive tech company like Meta, with one expert telling Reuters that tit only amounts to “less than a tenth” of last year’s expenses related to its burgeoning “metaverse” project. Still, it’s another thorn in Zuckerberg’s side, who has seen Meta’s stock tank over 60 percent during the course of 2022, a dramatic downturn that resulted in a massive layoff announcement of over 11,000 global employees last month.