Zuckerberg avoids Cambridge Analytica deposition as Facebook agrees to settle

It’s been four years since users alleging damage from the Cambridge Analytica scandal sued Facebook (now Meta) for selling reams of easily identifiable personal information to third parties, allegedly doing so even when users thought they had refused their consent. consent. In 2018, plaintiffs alleged in a consolidated lawsuit that Facebook acted “surprisingly recklessly” and did “almost nothing” to protect users from potential harm from this “intentionally” obscured massive data market. The company, they said, puts 87 million users at “substantial and imminent risk of identity theft, fraud, harassment, scams, text messages, unwanted emails and even piracy”. And users’ only option to avoid these risks was to put everything on Facebook in private mode, so that even friends wouldn’t see their activity.

Due to Facebook’s allegedly deceptive practices, the plaintiffs said that “Facebook users suffered concrete harm in a way that transcends a normal injury from a data breach.” Plaintiffs had gone so far in court to defend those claims that Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg was scheduled to speak for six hours in September, along with lengthy depositions scheduled for Facebook’s former chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, and Meta’s current Chief Growth Officer, Javier Olivan. However, it appears that none of these depositions will take place now.

On Friday, a joint petition was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. He confirmed that the plaintiffs and Facebook have reached a settlement agreement that appears to have finally ended the class action lawsuit that Meta previously said he hoped would be completed by March 2023.

It’s not yet clear how much the settlement will cost Facebook – which has already paid billions in fines to the FTC – but there may be more information about Facebook’s sanctions in the coming days. Although the joint motion requested 60 days to draft a written settlement agreement, U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria only granted the motion in part. Chhabria said he still expects all parties “to appear at the hearing on Friday, September 2 to discuss sanctions.”

Meta and Facebook’s legal team told Ars they had no comment. The plaintiffs’ legal team did not immediately respond.

What did Facebook users want the court to decide?

The plaintiffs originally asked in their lawsuit that the court order an audit and disclosure of Facebook, a change to Facebook’s default settings, “compensation for unprecedented levels of privacy invasions” and damages for users “who did not understand what was removed from Facebook”. them and how Facebook took advantage of them. Additional relief was also requested.

Part of their complaint was that privacy settings that gave users control over their data were buried in the app, while privacy settings that didn’t offer the same control over data were made accessible. According to the plaintiffs, this was misleading to users, who say they weren’t even notified once Facebook learned of Cambridge Analytica’s illegal data purchase.

Since 2018, Meta has changed some of Facebook’s policies, but the plaintiffs alleged that “it has only done so now as a result of regulatory and government outrage.” In addition to fines, the FTC imposed “significant requirements to enhance accountability and transparency” in 2019.

Currently, Congress is considering legislation called the Digital Accountability and Transparency to Advance Privacy Act (aka DATA Privacy Act), which would grant federal protections to users of popular web services. If passed, the law would require tech companies to provide “accessible notice to consumers about the company’s privacy practices.”

Until the technology is better regulated, users are bound to trust companies to update their policies as privacy and security risks become known. During an earnings call earlier this year, Meta signaled that it was motivated to keep updating its policies. Management said the company will invest in more secure ways for advertiser privacy to target marketing to users. This includes beta testing with major advertisers of a new “privacy-enhancing” technology called Private Lift. This “measurement solution”, says Meta, adds “additional layers of privacy to limit what information can be learned” by advertisers and Meta while allowing advertisers to effectively target users.

Zuckerberg avoids Cambridge Analytica deposition as Facebook agrees to settle

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