The Cambridge Analytica lawsuit may have been settled by Facebook’s parent company Meta, which also owns Instagram and WhatsApp. The parties to the suit have filed a request for a 60-day stay in the court proceedings with San Francisco federal court hearing the case so they can finalize a settlement. But no details have yet been released and there is no certainty that an out-of-court settlement will be finalized.
The lawsuit was filed as a class action suit on behalf of 87 million Facebook users who maintain that the company sold their personal data to Cambridge Analytica without their permission.
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The Cambridge Analytica scandal broke in 2018 when one of the company’s employees revealed to the press what it had done. In 2019 Facebook was fined $5 billion by the Federal Trade Commission for violating its users’ privacy.
This led to the company being forced to declare bankruptcy. Cambridge Analytica was a British political consulting firm.
And what exactly was it that Cambridge Analytica did? It harvested personal data from millions of Facebook users without their consent. The data was then used by Cambridge Analytica to create psychographic profiles of the people whose privacy had been violated.
This was then used for things like political campaigns. For example, a campaign, each profile’s information suggested what type of advertisement would be most effective to persuade individuals on specific issues and political campaigns.
And this is what happened in 2016. People were sent news feeds that were in keeping with their political biases, regardless of the truth. So someone thought to be more conservative – a likely Trump supporter – would see more and more feeds about how Hillary Clinton was involved in a pedophile ring and so forth. Since then, Facebook was forced to implement new policies to block fake news from people’s news feeds.
But this is not the only such lawsuit that Facebook/Meta is facing over the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
In May, Washington D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine filed a lawsuit against Mark Zuckerberg in which he alleged that the Facebook owner should be held responsible for not protecting the personal data belonging to Facebook users. The suit asserts that Zuckerberg was well aware of the risks to personal data held by Facebook and did not do anything to protect it. This, if true, would be in keeping with a pattern revealed recently by a Facebook whistleblower. That whistleblower revealed to the U.S. Congress that the company knew about various threats to the mental welfare of youth caused by Instagram it owns.