In a class action complaint, 44 million Facebook users in the UK believe their data was exploited after signing up for the social network, and Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta is being sued for £2.3 billion.
The action claims that Meta violated the 1998 Competition Act by charging Facebook’s UK users a “unfair price” for access to the service. Dr. Liza Lovdahl Gormsen, a legal expert, claims that the price for joining Facebook, which does not charge its users, is handing over personal data, which earns the majority of the company’s revenue.
Advertisers can target certain demographics and customers because Meta has built up profiles of its users through their online activity, and advertisers make approximately 98 percent of Meta’s revenue worldwide. “They are exploiting users by stealing their personal data without adequately rewarding them for taking that data,” said Lovdahl Gormsen, who added that Facebook’s relationship with its users was “totally inappropriate.” “I don’t think users realize how unfair that bargain is until they click on the terms and conditions.”
The class action is being brought as an opt-out case at the Competition Appeal Tribunal in London by Lovdahl Gormsen, a competition law specialist at the British Institute of International and Comparative Law. This means that Facebook users who are affected by it are not have to actively participate in the action in order to obtain damages; they will be included in the claim unless they want to opt out. The lawsuit spans the months of October 1, 2015, and December 31, 2019. If the action is successful, the judge will determine the amount of compensation per user. The £2.3 billion figure offered by the case’s supporters is an estimate of the harm caused to users.
Meta, which also owns the photo-sharing app Instagram and the messaging service WhatsApp, has been notified of the claim by Lovdhal Gormsen’s lawyers. The claim will then be heard by a tribunal judge, who will decide whether or not the case should be pursued. If it goes through, the lawsuit might take anywhere from 6 to 12 months to complete.
“People can use our service for free,” a Meta spokeswoman said. They pick our services because we provide value and they have significant control over what and with whom they disclose information on Meta’s platforms. We’ve put a lot of effort into developing tools that will enable them to do so.”
A US federal judge determined on Tuesday that the US Competition Commission can pursue a breakup lawsuit against Meta. In one of the most significant challenges the government has made against a tech giant in decades, the Federal Trade Commission wants Meta to sell Instagram and WhatsApp. Meta is accused of engaging in a “series of anti-competitive activity” by buying or crushing competitors, according to the lawsuit.