US Facebook users can now apply for their share of the settlement from the Cambridge Analytica class action lawsuit. Meta, Facebook’s parent company, settled the suit last December, agreeing to pay $725 million—although it didn’t have to admit any wrongdoing. If you reside stateside and had an active Facebook account any time between May 24th, 2007, and December 22nd, 2022, you are entitled to a part of the multi-million dollar payout even if you have since deleted your account. You just have to submit a claim before August 25th, 2023.
The settlement all stems from the 2018 revelations that Facebook allowed Cambridge Analytica, a now-defunct British consulting and data mining company, to improperly access personal information from up to 87 million users and use it to target voters during Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign. The data was purportedly collected for academic purposes using a personality quiz app. Even though only 270,000 people took the quiz, because of Facebook’s lax privacy policies, the app was able to scrape personal information from their Facebook friends.
The fall out at the time was pretty severe. Facebook CEO (and now Meta CEO) Mark Zuckerberg was called before Congress to answer questions related to the scandal, and the company agreed to voluntarily enforce GDPR-like privacy rules globally to prevent something similar from happening again.
After an investigation, the Federal Trade Commission fined Facebook a record-breaking $5 billion. The SEC also fined the company $100 million for misleading investors. And, of course, there was this class action lawsuit—which was later expanded to encompass any other third parties Facebook had allowed to improperly access user data.
Unfortunately, whatever sum of money you get from this settlement will likely be pretty small. As the FAQs explain, every claimant will be given one point for each month they used Facebook between 2007 and 2022. The full settlement, minus administrative fees, legal costs, and a few other expenses, will then be divided by the total number of points and shared out accordingly. If you have only used Facebook for a few years, you’ll get less than someone who has used the service for the full 15-year claim period.
It’s impossible to know the exact amount that anyone will get until the claim period has passed, but we can do some quick calculations to get a rough range. There were 240 million US Facebook users in 2022. If all of them submitted a claim and they’d all (impossibly) been using monthly Facebook since 2007, assuming the lawyers received 33 percent of the settlement, then you would be entitled to just around the $2 mark.
At the other end of things, let’s say that just 10 percent of the 50 million users on the site in October, 2007 bother to apply for the settlement and the lawyers only take 25 percent as fees, you’d be entitled to something north of $100.
So, depending on how active you’ve been on Facebook over the past 15 years, it seems likely that class action participants will get enough for a meal out—though whether that’s at McDonald’s or a local steakhouse remains to be seen. (Of course, if only a handful people bother to fill in Facebook’s claim form, then you could walk away with a few hundred thousand dollars. That seems unlikely, but you never know.)If you want to submit a claim, Facebook has set up a dedicated website. Once you (ironically) fill in a few personal details and select whether you want to be paid with a prepaid gift card, through PayPal or Venmo, or directly into your bank account, all you have to do is wait for your money.