Meta offers Canadians whose images were stolen by Facebook a settlement in four provinces

A multimillion-dollar settlement proposed by Meta sends a message to other companies about the importance of paying attention to the country’s privacy laws, says a lawyer representing Canadians in the class-action lawsuit against the social media giant.

Meta offers $51 million to resolve the lawsuit in four provinces over Facebook’s “Sponsored Stories” advertising program, which ran between 2011 and 2014, using people’s names and photographs without their knowledge.

Christopher Rhone, a partner at Vancouver law firm Branch MacMaster who represented the plaintiffs, said large social media companies are generally not based in Canada but still hope to do business here.

“It is important that they review and consider the privacy rights that individuals, residents of these provinces, have in Canada, before they begin to work here,” he said.

Rhone said companies need to look more closely at the Canadian legal landscape, “so that residents of these provinces can be protected in the way our legislatures and courts want them to be protected.”

The legal action brought by a British Columbia woman was expanded outside the province in 2019 to include residents of Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Newfoundland and Labrador.

As part of the sponsored stories program, if someone “liked” a product, Facebook generated a news feed using their name and profile photo, but it didn’t tell them that their information was being used.

MNP Ltd., the court-appointed administrator handling the proposed settlement, said in a statement that the settlement must be approved by a British Columbia Supreme Court judge in March, along with a process to determine the party’s share of the money. the members of the group.

“The proposed settlement provides that Facebook will pay a lump sum of $51 million in exchange for a full and final release by the class of all claims at issue in the class action lawsuit against Facebook,” read the statement issued Thursday by MNP.

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Meta did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the deal.

The case has dragged on for years, including to the Supreme Court of Canada, which ruled in 2017 that Facebook could be sued in British Columbia courts.

A British Columbia Supreme Court judge found in 2022 that “class members did not express or imply consent to Facebook’s use of their images in Sponsored Stories.”

Rhone said Meta appealed the liability decision, but no ruling was issued before a settlement was reached.

He said that even though Facebook does not admit liability in the settlement, the money still sends a strong message about protecting the rights of Canadians.

Meta concluded a $725 million legal settlement last year with American Facebook users over privacy after revelations that the platform allowed its users’ personal information to be sent to Cambridge Analytica, a firm that helped Trump’s U.S. presidential campaign. Donald Trump in 2016.

Lawyers estimate that 4.3 million people could qualify for part of the Canadian settlement.

The MNP statement said group members do not need to do anything yet to obtain compensation.

“After the settlement is approved, a process will be announced that will establish the procedure and manner for class members to submit their claims for a portion of the settlement funds.”

Rhone said he will propose creating an online form for people to prove they lived in one of the four provinces and were a member of Facebook during the period Sponsored Stories were posted.

He said there is no database indicating who was used in the ads.

“I think almost anyone who was at least somewhat active on Facebook would have been in a sponsored story. That’s the assumption we’re working with,” he said.

Anyone who wants to oppose the proposed deal has until March 11.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 11, 2024.

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