Meta, the parent company of Facebook, has agreed to pay $51 million to settle a class-action lawsuit in Canada over the use of some users’ images in Facebook advertising without their consent.
The lawsuit, filed by a British Columbia woman, alleged that Facebook used her image and those of others in its “sponsored stories” advertising program without their knowledge or permission. The program, which ran from 2011 to 2014, generated news feed endorsements using people’s names and profile photos if they liked a product. However, users were not informed that their images were being used for advertising purposes.
The lawsuit was later expanded to include residents of Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Newfoundland and Labrador.
Under the proposed settlement, Meta will pay $51 million in exchange for a full and final release of all claims against the company. Lawyers estimate that 4.3 million Canadians could be eligible for compensation if they had their real name or photo used in a sponsored story.
The settlement still needs to be approved by a B.C. Supreme Court judge in March. If approved, a process will be announced for class members to submit their claims for a share of the settlement funds.
This is not the first time that Meta has been in trouble over its privacy practices. In 2018, the company was fined $5 billion by the Federal Trade Commission for violating users’ privacy. In 2019, it was fined £500,000 by the UK Information Commissioner’s Office for failing to protect users’ data from political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica.
The Canadian settlement is a reminder of the importance of protecting our privacy online. It is also a warning to companies like Meta that they need to be more transparent about how they collect and use our data.