Meta hit with $3.2 billion class action suit over alleged exploitation of UK Facebook users

Users aren't properly compensated for their personal data, the lawyers stated.

Carlos Barria / reuters

A legal expert has teamed with a litigation firm to sue Meta on behalf of 44 million Facebook users in the UK, claiming that they had their data exploited in violation of competition laws, TechCrunch has reported. The firm is seeking £2.3 billion ($3.1 billion) in damages for UK Facebook users.

The lawsuit was filed by competition law specialist Dr. Liza Lovdahl Gormsen, and is being funded by Innsworth, a law firm that takes on cases in exchange for a share of damages won. It claims that even though users don't pay to use Facebook, they surrender data that has considerable value.

"They are exploiting users by taking their personal data without properly compensating them for taking that data," Lovdahl Gormsen said in a statement. "I don’t think the users are entirely clear when they click on the terms and conditions how unfair that deal is."

She added that Facebook has become "the sole social network in the UK where you could be sure to connect with friends and family in one place." And even as it locked users into its ecosystem (which includes WhatsApp and Instagram), it was tracking users across other websites as well. "It abused its market dominance to impose unfair terms and conditions on ordinary Britons giving it the power to exploit their personal data," according to Lovdahl Gormsen.

The lawsuit covers the period from October 2015 to December 31st, 2019. It's an "opt-out" class action lawsuit, meaning that users will not need to take any action to receive damages in the case, unless they decide to opt out.

"People access our service for free. They choose our services because we deliver value for them and they have meaningful control of what information they share on Meta’s platforms and who with. We have invested heavily to create tools that allow them to do so," a Meta spokesperson told The Guardian in a statement.

Facebook already had a hit of bad news this week in the US, as a Federal judge said an antitrust suit by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) against Facebook could move forward. The FTC wants to force Meta to sell Instagram and WhatsApp, accusing it of engaging in "anti-competitive conduct" against rivals.