Meta has agreed to pay a whopping $725 million sum to settle a class action lawsuit alleging Facebook shared its users’ data without them knowing. If you’ve had a Facebook account anytime in the past 15 years, you’re probably eligible for a piece of that huge sum (check and see here) – but don’t count on a life-changing payout.
“The actual figure that will be distributed to class members is going to be smaller than that. It’ll be significantly smaller than that,” said Scott Dodson, a distinguished professor of law at UC Law San Francisco and the director of the Center for Litigation and Courts.
Assuming the judge gives final approval to the settlement in September, a few things need to happen before any money hits your bank account.
First off, there are the legal fees. The details of the settlement cap attorneys’ fees at 25% of the total settlement amount. Whether the lawyers get that amount or less depends on a few factors, like how many hours they worked or if they need to be reimbursed for hiring expert witnesses, Dodson explained. That amount would have to be approved by the court.
If the lawyers who worked on the case received the maximum amount possible, they would get $181,250,000.
That chops down the settlement fund to $543,750,000. That’s still a big pot of money – but wait, there’s more.
The next major deduction are administrative fees. Essentially, an administrator is appointed by the court to set up the settlement website, look at claimants’ information, verify they’re eligible, and send them what they’re due.
“All of that will entail costs that are taken off the top,” said Dodson. “Again, that’s going to be a substantial chunk, but not as much as the attorney fees in my estimation.”
Dodson said it wasn’t possible to guess how much these administration costs might be. While it should be easy to identify eligible people because of Facebook’s records and users’ contact information, it’s also a massive settlement class: anyone in the U.S. with a Facebook account between May 24, 2007, and Dec. 22, 2022.
Administrative costs could be in the millions or tens of millions, depending on how easy or hard the settlement is to execute, he said.
We’re almost at the point where you get paid – but not quite. The pot shrinks by another $120,000 because each of the eight plaintiffs who represented all Facebook users in the case is entitled to $15,000, the Los Angeles Times reports.
OK, now we’ve gotten to you, the average Facebook user. Once all fees have been deducted, the net settlement fund will be divided by the number of claimants, but not equally. Instead, each Facebook user will get a point for every month they had an active Facebook account between May 2007 and December 2022. The more points you have, the bigger your payment.
Based on similar large class action settlements, Dodson estimated the higher end of payments might be in the “triple digits,” with many more receiving less than $100.
Even those estimates are based on a lot of guesswork, as it remains to be seen how complicated (and expensive) the payout operations are, and how many of the many, many Facebook users file a claim.
If you think you might be eligible, you have until Aug. 25 to file a claim. You can do so online or by mail.