Here's What to Know About the Settlement Cash You May Get Just for Using Facebook

If you had a Facebook account between 2007 and 2022 you are eligible to claim free money. But, what’s behind that cash?


Millions of Facebook users who had an account in the last 15 years are eligible to receive part of a multimillion dollar settlement payment following a lawsuit against the company.

Karen North, PhD, digital social media expert and professor at the University of Southern California (USC) explains that “what people don't remember, because it has been a while now, is that this all comes from the Cambridge Analytica problems of a few years ago”.

How to claim part of the $725 million settlement, announced this week, follows a class action lawsuit alleging Facebook allowed consulting firm Cambridge Analytica to access the private information of about 87 million Facebook users during former President Donald Trump's presidential campaign in 2016.

“The issue wasn't just that Cambridge Analytica was able to infiltrate people's Facebook pages and engage in what people have described as election meddling, they were basically posting what appeared to be news stories, but they were actually buying ad space in order to do that”, said North who is not a lawyer, but has studied online safety and data privacy for many years.

"The way that they got their information was by requesting information through Facebook's willingness to give research access to people, mostly at universities. And so Cambridge Analytica got access to people's information to their data, saying that they were doing research when in fact, they were using it for messaging”, North explained and added “that was a violation of people's understanding of their own privacy on the platform”.

The latest announcement of the settlement, in part, is showing how “they are resolving this by saying that Facebook violated the agreement with users, and their users have the right to ask for money as compensation for the damages”.

Why is personal data so important?

Many people use social media applications every day without thinking about the information they are sharing. But when something is posted online, it becomes information or data that can be accessed publicly or that should be private, depending on the agreement that the user accepts by using that platform.

Nowadays, data is an important component in technology, which is used as a commodity by companies all over the world. 

“A lot of people these days don't even worry about privacy, but those of us who have any expertise in the field are very, very concerned about data being collected and used that should be private data”, said North.

So, why was it so important to make public the Cambridge Analytica data sharing issue?

North explained that the “Cambridge Analytica problem with Facebook was a very notable example of where the private information was willingly shared with the company. Facebook shared the information. It wasn't that they were hacked”.

In fact, “it was data that should have been private”, said North.

This is just one case of data privacy breach that concerns experts around the world. According to North, “Facebook is such a huge company, is an ubiquitous, well known company, that when they do something wrong, it allows everybody to learn from their mistakes, and so this is an example where we, the public, should be learning that our data may not be as secure as we thought”.

Also, “companies are now learning that if they are sloppy in their protection of our private information, they can end up having a price to pay”, she added.

How to protect your data?

For the social media expert, every person who engages in social media should be aware that when people use digital platforms or apps, “often we have waived our right to our own privacy or our own name, image and likeness, because we don't read all the contractual agreements”.

Also, she warned that “one thing that is really important to recognize is that when we download or use an app or a platform that is housed in another country, we need to recognize that ‘their country, their rules’. When we engage in business with something that lives in another country, they are probably bound by the rules of that country, not necessarily our country”.

Even though it is a different case, that is the ongoing controversy with TikTok in the United States. “It has to do with the fact that the laws about data privacy are different country by country”, North explained.

She finally said that every person has to “take some responsibility as individuals” and, as a country, there is a need for stricter rules about data privacy.

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