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Meta sued for £2.3bn over claim Facebook users in UK were exploited (theguardian.com)
142 points by CTOSian 11 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 49 comments

I think there's a tradeoff we make when using these services for free, that they are monetising it in certain ways. I think the value I get back from Google in Gmail, Docs, Youtube and a few other services is sufficient that I'm willing to accept a certain amount of monetisation on their part, though I use ad blockers. With facebook I think the value is lower so I barely use my Facebook account and stay logged out of it most of the time.

I don't really see the merit of this case though. They're not alleging that facebook broke any data protection laws, for the purposes of this case, just that users 'aren't properly compensated'. I'm not sure how you'd determine that though, a lot of people use Facebook heavily, and presumably they value the service. Is it really up to a court to decide how much they value it?

Users would get £50 each from this case, presumably for many years of use to this point on average, so this would be a few pence per week of their usage. If the lawyers bringing the case think that's all the user data is worth, that seems a small price to pay for most users of the service. It just doesn't add up.

> I think the value I get back from Google in Gmail, Docs, Youtube and a few other services is sufficient that I'm willing to accept a certain amount of monetisation on their part, though I use ad blockers.

If you're blocking ads and not paying for premium then it's more that you're taking without giving. Which incentives them to pry harder for whatever they can glean from your usage, and show more ads to non-blockers.

this was before FB manipulated users with lies and incited hate to vote for corrupt politicians and threatening democratic processes

How is this relevant to the parent comment? Is not compensating users fine unless you "manipulated users with lies and incited hate to vote for corrupt politicians and threatening democratic processes"? Feels like the parent comment is talking about the specifics of the lawsuit, and you're just interjecting with "yeah but they're still bad".

I sign up to Facebook, which costs them money (storage costs, network traffic, CPU, etc) and in exchange they make money off me by showing me ads. How is that unfair? It would be like saying it is unfair that meat I buy in the supermarket costs the supermarket less than they charge me.

We're approaching the point where asking this question is like asking why we set a cold temperature record when there's supposed to be global warming. It's just willful ignorance.

It’s might be PR too

You can guarantee every single post critical of FAANG has lots of those kind of comments

Automatically considering a perspective different to yours as shilling is shallow dismissal. Recently, there was a thread on the non-monetization of Wordle and a similar argument arose, with some justifying hypothetical ads in exchange of using compute & storage. I doubt that was Josh Wardle's PR commenting (as he doesn't make money off of it)

> I sign up to Facebook, which costs them money (storage costs, network traffic, CPU, etc) and in exchange they make money off me by showing me ads

How would you explain the fact that police forces, private investigators, credit bureaus, stalkers and intelligence agencies love Facebook if all the company is doing is "showing me ads"?

My point is that you're leaving out the most valuable/terrifying thing that this company does: creating incredibly detailed profiles of nearly every person on the planet including their likes, dislikes, relationships, private thoughts and behavioral patterns.

We may be powerless to change it because developers are easily bribed with FAANG salaries and people generally like their stock portfolios but let's at least be honest about it.

Advertising isn’t the problem, the processing of data to target those adverts is the problem.

That said, given how often they insist on showing me (literally) revolutionary marxist content no matter how often I click “Show me less of this” — and from the same specific groups no matter how often I click “Never show me ‘Demexit Memes For Green Teens’” (I’m not a teen, I can’t exit the Democrat party because I’m not an American and can’t join in the first place, Brexit riffs give me a negative affect[0], and while I am vaguely green-ish at least in regards to UK politics I feel negatively about the USA Green Party) — I don’t think they’re even very good at using this data for targeting content.

> It would be like saying it is unfair that meat I buy in the supermarket costs the supermarket less than they charge me.

Something about buying Manhattan island for some beads comes to mind, although the actual history behind that meme is rather more interesting: https://knowledgenuts.com/native-americans-didnt-sell-manhat...

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Affect_(psychology)

I think "unfair" here is a legal term. Looking at the act they reference, I'm guessing they're arguing that Facebook abused its dominant market position to impose an "unfair" price per [0] (which is the only place "unfair" is mentioned in the document). I think they're also arguing that the price that users are paying isn't clear to them.

The difference between what they're arguing and your supermarket example is that there's competition in the UK for supermarkets [1] and that the price of the meat in the supermarket is right there on the label, while on Facebook you have to dig through the T&Cs to figure out what they're doing. Your standard supermarket also has margins of ~5% [2], while Facebook has 36% [3], so it might be argued that Facebook's price is unreasonably inflated due to the lack of competition.

[0]: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1998/41/section/18

[1]: https://www.kantar.com/inspiration/fmcg/2021-wp-new-baseline...

[2]: https://finbox.com/OTCPK:TSCD.F/explorer/gp_margin

[3]: https://investor.fb.com/investor-news/press-release-details/...

You either take something in return, or claim it's free. You can't claim that you're giving a free service if you're expecting something in return.

I suppose it is technically true that we don't call commercial television "free television" but TV broadcasters don't really establish any terms and conditions. Informally, I think they say they are a free service in PR interactions from time to time.

Shouldn't it really be more significant when a company takes payment but continues to also monetize ads. I.e. not disclosing the money made from product placements in a movie in a ticket purchase is a specific fraud relating to a transaction with a measurable cost.

Imagine if a new grocery store started in your area called foodface, and only let people in if they were invited by an existing member (a la Price Club, but without the membership fee). It gets popular, maybe the service they offer is slightly unique, slightly better than the other grocery stores.

foodface spends a lot of time in the red propped up by investors as it focuses on growth. At this point goods were priced the same as everywhere else. foodface uses its funding to invest in the best arrangement of aisles and container quantity to focus purely on maximizing quantity that people buy, not on profit.

Eventually foodface cracks the code. They recognize how to maximize quantity. Now they shift focus to profit. They start to figure out how to aggregate data about your purchases and then how to market that data to companies who sell goods in their store. foodface now hands you an automated personal shopper device at the door, with deals on goods that are personalized to you. While you're shopping, metrics are collected and sold off to the highest bidder and they get to bid for spots on your shopping deals list. You're most likely shopping for baby related items, or prepping items, or weekly grocery items, or clothing.

Grocery shopping starts to morph. People become slaves to the deal list. People no longer go with a list to the store, they go to the store and get the list of things to buy. foodface notices when their purchasing falls below a normal threshold and then pings them to update their profile. Did they lose a job? Did they get a new family member? And based on those things and machine learning models they start to present shopping lists that take all the stress out of planning your shopping trip. The feedback loop is complete.

They raise more money, and they start to buy up all the grocery stores around you. Now there's nowhere else for you to shop except foodface. Mom and pop stores spring up, but their whole intent is to get bought. You try to drive out of town to where there's still normal grocery stores but those stores don't offer deals because all the companies with goods on their shelves don't get even an order of magnitude of the profit they get from buying your data from foodface.

Anyways, so the contention here as it seems to me is that your personal data is worth more to foodface than the service you're getting, and that isn't obvious to you at the time your data is handed over. You can figure it out later but at that point it's too late. The amount of personal data you can salvage once you figure it out is simply taking away future data points, but you're still ultimately "known" up to the point you quit.

... hold on, that's a pretty good startup idea. Meh, nevermind. It's brick and mortar. Those are notoriously difficult.

I don't know how this law firm acquired it's right to represent every Facebook user in the UK, I had a choice to sign up to Facebook, all be it personally a begrudging one it was at least a choice. I seem to have no choice about this company suiting meta claiming to be on my behalf.

Don't worry, these class-action type suits never succeed in UK. So when this fails it will make it harder for groups in other countries to pursue the same claim.

> So when this fails it will make it harder for groups in other countries to pursue the same claim.

At least in practice, even if not in theory.

Uh, can we call it a false flag, then...?

Maybe, but I would like a lawyer to weigh in on it. I know that US, UK, Can and Aus have compatible legal systems, and often a case from one country sets precedent in the others. But even without that, how many judges would hear a case that was already tossed out in a compatible jurisdiction?

All good ones, I would hope. Otherwise what is the point of being an independent country for any of them? Due diligence requires nothing less than a fair attempt at assessing a case for the local laws as there might be differences after all.

Well, you don't get any money from this so.

But it costs Facebook money that they could be using to develop features that the commenter wanted?

legal costs aren’t pulled from r&d

indirectly they are.

Money is fungible.

If I count this correctly, the damage is 0.9 £ per person per month. So this is what the claimant thinks should be an average and fair monthly compensation for being a FB user for that time.

Meanwhile, Facebook's ARPU in Europe is ~$50/user/year [1], so they're roughly $40 ahead per claimant after this lawsuit. Just a cost of doing business...

[1] https://seekingalpha.com/article/4410715-facebook-is-running...

Revenue is not the same as profit, from the source you quoted the ARPU in Europe for 2016 (period lawsuit starts) is half of what it is in 2020, also it's closer to 15$ since GBP is worth more than USD.

Highly doubt this would be in the "cost of doing business category"

Approximately what I get too.

2.3 billion GBP.

44 million people.

From October 1st to December 31st is 3 months. Followed by all of 2016 through all of 2019, so 4 times 12 months.

51 months total.

  ((2.3 * 10^9)/(44 * 10^6))/51
Comes out to about 1.02 GBP per person per month

Hmmm seems low but how likely is this to actually go against FB. Seems they have many of these lawsuits against them and they always manage to wriggle out of them.

I think the issue is the amount of personal data users give to FB. It's one thing to accept a user agreement on a set of data (name, age, etc) but a different one to put your personal life under their microscope and let them monetize it via ads

I get that Meta/FB is the company/service everyone loves to hate these days, but come on, hate it for the right reason: the product sucks and makes you a worse human being. It's like a drug.

Suing them for a small fraction of their profits based on fashionable but flimsy legal theories is boring, and the outcome is always the same.

Designating social media as a Controlled Substance would be insane, but it'd at least be apropos.

Well, the whole idea of Controlled Substances bans hasn't really worked out for pharmaceutical drugs either..

It sounds extremely far-fetched. First of all, it's difficult to put a price on the user data. And even if you do by looking at how much money it's possible to earn via targeted advertising, you'll probably end up with a relatively low number, perhaps on the order of $10 per month.

That sounds like a lot of money, but that's just £52.27 per person. Not really much money when you put it into perspective.

You can't expect to use their products for free without expecting for any some kind of return, right?

To put things into perspective: this is about one month of net income (profit) for Meta.

That's enough to make them sit up and take notice, then.

> A Meta spokesperson said: “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

LOL. lawyer speak statement of the century. you could always just kill yourself - you have definite and permanent control of your data.

i am the last generation. i grew up outside but got a computer and cell phone in my teenage years. it truly saddens me that people think social media is a requirement for living. just dont do it, and dont let your kids do it.

You don't need a facebook account to be tracked and to have a profile made of you. All your contacts have uploaded your contact information (Name + Phone Number) to whatsapp, facebook and instagram among others without your consent.

With your first sentence I thought you realized this much, but then your second one doesn't make sense. Yes this response is purely lawyer speak and PR exactly because you don't control your data. Everyone on the Internet wants as much data as they can possibly grab.

> it truly saddens me that people think social media is a requirement for living. just dont do it, and dont let your kids do it.

In some ways, it is. News get shared over social media. Events get published (only) on social media. A lot of people organize hobbys or work on social media. You will miss a lot by choosing to ignore it. And yes, you can still live without it, but comparing it to a time when nobody used social media is just apples to oranges.

We as adults can choose not to use it and deal with the social consequences. But other kids won't be understanding or even accommodating. Completely banning you kids from social media is just as bad as letting them use it.

To my knowledge its not nearly as big a thing, but I heard about a kid who was essentially ostracised from his friend group because he had an android phone and they all used iphones, which effectively to them just meant his chat bubble in imessage was a different colour (I know there are legitimate advantages of imessage, but talking to people who use it, I doubt that was the issue at play). Eventually his parents brought him an iphone and he was allowed back into the group, but yeh kids can be brutal.

If kids are that brutal over the colour of a chat message, you can only imagine how they'd react if they didn't have a phone at all (or have social media, they are essentially one in the same in this case).

Kids were ostracizing each other from groups for dumb reasons long before phones or social media were ever invented, and they will continue to do so long after we move onto the next thing. There will always be some arbitrary way to define an ingroup and an outgroup, the fact that kids are brutal enough to exclude someone because of something as pointless as their text bubbles' color illustrates the futility of trying to avoid this fate by appeasement. At some point people just have to have that uncomfortable conversation with their child where they explain friends who abandon you at a drop of a hat aren't friends.

The biggest problem is that politicians use and legitimize social networks. The fact that fb/google etc. have detailed profiles on all world leaders and none of them care because in return they get to farm likes and get their tweets featured in media speaks volumes on how much governments really care about national security or even general privacy.

To be honest, for politicians and other public figures, Facebook (and Google etc) is no worse and probably better than the traditional paparazzi or yellow press.

Paparazzis don't generally stalk what you do online in private. Facebook has embedded spyware in most mainstream websites & apps that stalks you all the time.

They stalk your whole private and public life, if you are a person of interest to them.

Do they routinely install malware on your machine to stalk your online activity?

In the unlikely event this succeeds you'll need to provide address or bank details to someone (most likely Facebook) in order to get paid. No thank you.

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