The tyranny of large numbers: Could the Facebook class action exceed a trillion dollars?

April 10, 2018 // By Peter Clarke
A class action lawsuit filed in Delaware against Facebook Inc., Cambridge Analytica and others alleging the misappropriation and misuse of users' data and fraud could cost the defendants billions of dollars and be worth thousands of dollars to each member of the class.

Indeed, so large is the number of members in the class, that even a relatively small award per class member could give the defendents' a bill in the region of hundreds of billions of dollars. 

The suit alleges the social media company failed to protect the personal information of 70.6 million Facebook users in the US and more than 1 million in the United Kingdom in 2014. The law suit was also filed against Cambridge Analytica LLC, SCL Group Ltd. and Global Science Research Ltd., organizations that obtained the Facebook user data. It is alleged the data was used to develop and foster political propaganda campaigns that may have influenced the US presidential election in 2016 and the UK's referendum on Brexit in the same year.

There are five claims in the suit.  For two of the alleged violations – breach of the Stored Communication Act – by Facebook on one count and by Global Science Research Ltd. Aleksandr Kogan and by various SCL and Cambridge Analytica companies on the second, the lawyers are seeking statutory damages of $1,000 per class member at least, as well as punitive damages, attorneys’ fees, and costs.

There is also a claim of negligence and wilful negligence against Facebook and claims of fraud by Facebook and by GSR, Aleksandr Kogan and by various SCL and Cambridge Analytica companies, for which punitive damages, fees and costs are also being sought.

If the case was found for the plaintiffs on all charges but only $2,000 was awarded to each of more than 71.6 million class members, the cost would be more than $143.2 billion. If a higher sum of $5,000 was awarded to each class member the cost could escalate to more than $358 billion.

Next: What about triple damages?

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