back to article Meta offers $37.5m to settle location tracking lawsuit

Meta has offered to pay $37.5 million to settle a class-action lawsuit, which claimed its social media platform Facebook illegally harvested location data even when users explicitly denied consent. Plaintiffs said they had turned off location tracking for the Facebook app downloaded on their iOS and Android smartphones, but …

  1. steviebuk Silver badge

    And again

    Was never a fan of breaking these big companies up but now I am. Facebook will never stop. They only stop when they get caught, pay out then do it all again with the next project. Until people like Mark are told "Do this again and you'll serve prison time in general pop", they'll just continue.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: And again

      The lawyers for the class action clearly have only their own interests at heart here. After all, why would anyone affected by this illegal data grab think that their data was worth only $1.86? The lawyers will be creaming millions of the top, Meta/Facebook get a minor slap on the wrist and the punters who had their data illegally used get sweet FA.

      There is no need for Meta and their ilk to stop doing this if they don't get punished properly for breaking the law. If it had gone to court and Meta lost, there would almost certainly be punitive damages too since this was almost certainly not an "accident". They can't even blame a "rogue engineer" since that person would have been an employee acting on their behalf at the time. The employer is still responsible for the actions of an employee going about company business.

    2. An_Old_Dog Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Death Sentence for Corporations

      Look how well the breakup of AT&T worked: The "Baby Bells" re-coalesced (albeit under different names, via a rash of takeovers and mergers) like the liquid metal of the Terminators.

      What's needed is something like a death-sentence-for-corporations:

      (1) the employees' wages all would be paid; (2) The employees' retirement plans would be paid to the employees, linearly pro-rated, starting with the lowliest workers, and working up to the Board of Directors; (3) "Golden Parachutes" would all be invalidated; (4) Members of the Board would receive a lifetime ban on serving on any other BoDs, or consulting for any other BoDs; (5) Outstanding company-owed damages (for product liability, pollution cleanup, etc.) would be paid; (6) Stockholders would be paid for their shares; (7) Unsecured creditors would be paid; (8) Delinquent taxes would be paid; (9) Any excess would be evenly-divided among all employees; (10) ALL personal data in the company's possession would be DESTROYED; (11) exfiltrating or attempting to exfiltrate personal data from the company, once notice was served, will result in significant, irreducible jail time for the perpetrator(s), and, (12) anyone exfiltrating, or attempting to exfiltrate, information regarding a corporate-death case before official notice is served, will receive significant, irreducible jail time (this last to discourage any government "friends" of BoD members from giving an un-official "heads up").

      I know this isn't fair to any "contractors" the company uses. Someone else will have to amend my proposal to be fair to them.

      1. jmch Silver badge

        Re: Death Sentence for Corporations

        a) surely contractors would fall under "Unsecured creditors"

        b) I agree with your points, the main issue is that I believe it's unlikely that there would always be enough money to pay all of 1-8, let alone having any left over for 9

        But absolutely I agree that since corporations to all intents and purposes have all the benefits of natural persons (probably even more in terms of taxation), there should also be corporate equivalents of 'jail time' and 'death sentence'

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Death Sentence for Corporations

        While I applaud most of what you say, some of these companies have very little in tangible assets and shutting them down like that would leave very little cash. Much of their supposed value is the very data you are saying should be destroyed. The rest of the value is the fantasy projected growth while the shareholders have faith in the company, all of which would also evaporate once the order was announced.

      3. MrDamage Silver badge

        Re: Death Sentence for Corporations

        Fuck the shareholders. They had no problems taking the cash as a result of these illegal practices, knowingly throwing their money at the sociopathic reptilian despite all of the privacy issues they've created. They go last.

    3. hoola Silver badge

      Re: And again

      Maybe if it had been $3.5Bn or even better $35Bn, they might have taken notice. This is not even an inconvenience.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: And again

        It's so not an inconvenience that it's a straight up convenience. They get to clear the slate for about what they probably pay for coffee in a given year, and their victims won't even be able to buy a cup.

        The members of the class got screwed, because their own layers are looking to Facebooks interests more than theirs. How much you want to bet the members of the firm catch work for Meta down the road?

  2. iain666

    " A California judge will now have to decide whether or not to approve the settlement."

    If FB suggested it the judge should add at least two orders of magnitude on principle without even looking at the amount.

    And then go "well, one more would be about a year of profits, and that seems kind of fitting so lets do that"...

    1. OhForF'
      Unhappy

      They should only be allowed to settle if they admit they were wrrong and apologize and enter a legally binding agreement to pay attorneys fees and procedure costs and $500/user if they ever violate their users privacy again.

      Unfortunately that's not gonna happen in the world we live in.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Mushroom

    Unfortunately

    That's the way the system works. Lawyers set the settlement high enough to pay their exorbitant fees.The judge, who is also a lawyer, approves them. And everybody goes away happy.

    Except for the victims.

  4. Negative Charlie

    "Facebook would lose about eight hours of annual profit."

    And how exactly is this different from losing eight hours of its daily profit?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      One gets you a bigger bonus at the end of the year

      For basically sitting in your office breathing while the lawyers do the heavy lifting.

  5. Falmari Silver badge
    WTF?

    $1 per class member

    From the linked proposed settlement [PDF].

    " 34. If the case had gone to trial, Plaintiffs likely would have been limited to nominal damages, which are frequently set at $1 per class member. Mission Beverage Co. v. Pabst Brewing Co., 15 Cal. App. 5th 686, 710-711 (2017) (“A plaintiff suing for breach of contract is entitled to recover . . . nominal damages.”); Cummings v. Connell, 402 F.3d 936, 940 (9th Cir. 2005), as amended, 2005 WL 1154321 (9th Cir. May 17, 2005) (holding that “every member is entitled to nominal damages, just as if each one had brought his or her own lawsuit” and that damages would be limited to $1 per class member). Assuming a class size of approximately 70 million users, the settlement amount represents 53% of what Plaintiffs could have recovered under a nominal damages theory based on a judgment of $1 per class member. Plaintiffs believe this discount accurately reflects the risks of going forward with the litigation. Counsel Decl."

    So Facebook set the size of the pot to (53% of $1 x the number of possible claimants) because $1 is all a plaintive would get if they brought the case themselves. Now if that is true and all a plaintive would get if they win is $1 who in their right f*!king mind would start a lawsuit? No one would!

    Who would pay out lawyer's fees which they would not get back if they lost, possible not recoup even if they won, for the chance of a $1 payout. Hell even if a lawyer offered to take Facebook to court on my behalf on a no win no fee for a possible payout of $1, I would tell them to FO.

    But then this class action suit like all the others is not done for victims, it is not like any of them were asked. This class action suit is for the profit of the lawyers under the guise of compensation for the victims, who never asked for them to go to court, because those victims will never see any compensation.

    $0.53 is not f*!king compensation for Facebook using your data without permission. No one who opted out of that data collection would have opted in for 3 years data collection if Facebook had offered them $0.53 to.

    Class action suits should banned unless they are going to give the victims a real payout (a payout that the victims would actually think about going to court for). As it stands today class action suits are instigated by lawyers for the benefit of those lawyers. It is just a f*!king scam.

    1. OhForF'

      Re: $1 per class member

      Class action suits should banned unless they are going to give the victims a real payout (a payout that the victims would actually think about going to court for). As it stands today class action suits are instigated by lawyers for the benefit of those lawyers.

      I disagree. Class action suits allow lawyers to sue big companies to stop unlawful behaviour when no single victim would have a meaningful incentive to do so. Even if the individual damage is only 1$ as alleged by Facebook they should be taken to court for doing it to 70 million victims and currently the only way to do that is a class action suit.

      Fines for that behaviour need to be much higher to deter Facebook from continuing to infringe and account the damages to pay as cost of business.

      In addition to the 1$ paid per victim Facebook should have to pay a fine of at least twice the revenue they generated from using the illegaly acquired data.

      1. Falmari Silver badge

        Re: $1 per class member

        "I disagree. Class action suits allow lawyers to sue big companies to stop unlawful behavior when no single victim would have a meaningful incentive to do so."

        That maybe the reasoning behind class action suits, but it is not the reality, which is that they are a nice little earner for the lawyers.

        Class action suits are not to punish or a deter unlawful behavior, they are to determine if the plaintive is an injured party and if so the compensation owed by the defendant. Compensation is not a fine it is not meant to be punishment, the defendant has not been found guilty of a crime.

        Unlawful behavior should be prosecuted as a criminal offence and appropriate punishment applied if found guilty of breaking the law. Sure there will be no compensation for the victims, but they are very unlikely to miss $0.53. But if they do, then they can still sue.

    2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: $1 per class member

      " No one who opted out of that data collection would have opted in for 3 years data collection if Facebook had offered them $0.53 to."

      Exactly, and this is how damages should be estimated. FB took something that didn't belong to them but we aren't sure of its monetary value so let's ask how much they'd have to pay to get permission.

      I doubt even ten times that (half a cent a day?) would attract many people. The proposed settlement is clearly two orders of magnitude too low and even proposing it is an insult to the victims' intelligence.

  6. PapaPepe

    How can this be stopped?

    Expecting such behavior will be stopped by legal means is unrealistic.

    There is unfortunately only one way to stop it, and we are still very far from it: what we really need are user device operating systems which make it reasonably simple for the owner to administer the device and control what an application can and what it can not do. The way things are now, a consortium of foxes not only raid the hen-house - they own and administer it.

    1. chivo243 Silver badge
      Alert

      Re: How can this be stopped?

      Moral of this story:

      Don't put your hen in that house? Or Don't use FB or IG or TT or any of these social platforms where your hen is at risk...

    2. steviebuk Silver badge

      Re: How can this be stopped?

      Another option, which will sadly never happen, is for everyone to stop using Facebook. Sadly, too many small businesses still do.

  7. Potemkine! Silver badge

    If GDPR exited in the US, Meta could be slapped with a fine up to 4% of their worldwide revenues for this infraction. It could help Meta to get it right with privacy.

    1. Mike 137 Silver badge

      Re: Meta offers $37.5m to settle location tracking lawsuit

      "If GDPR exited in the US, Meta could be slapped with a fine up to 4% of their worldwide revenues"

      But they probably wouldn't be. In the UK at least, the official "guidelines" (not law but administrative policy) have always limited fines to well below the maximum. Enforcement of the GDPR has always been, shall we say politely, rather less rigorous than it might ideally have been.

      1. heyrick Silver badge

        Re: Meta offers $37.5m to settle location tracking lawsuit

        Because the massive corporates have more than enough cash to slip some into a brown envelope to ensure the status quo remains as it is.

  8. Mr Dogshit

    Plaintiffs were shocked

    Shocked, I tell you!

  9. NiteDragon

    Facebook has done similar (contact scraping without consent on android) before - they really should get hit exponentially harder each time they get caught with a hand in the cookie jar.

  10. Snowy Silver badge
    Boffin

    There goes the biscuit budget

    An estimated 70 million netizens can claim damages from the $37.5 million fund, which works out to be about $0.53 per person.

    Assuming the lawyers take nothing would that even cover the cost of collected details, verifying they have a claim and paying the 70 million people affected?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don’t use, stop using

    Fixed.

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