DEC 23 (Reuters) – Facebook owner Meta Platforms Inc (META.O) has agreed to pay $725 million to settle a class action lawsuit accusing the social media giant of damaging third parties, including Cambridge Analytica to allow access to users’ personal data.
The proposed settlement, revealed in a court filing late Thursday, would settle a lengthy legal battle sparked by revelations in 2018 that Facebook had allowed British policy consultancy Cambridge Analytica to access data on up to 87 million users.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys called the proposed settlement the largest ever reached in a US privacy class-action lawsuit and the most Meta has ever paid to settle a class-action lawsuit.
“This historic settlement will bring significant relief to the class in this complex and novel privacy case,” lead counsel for the plaintiffs, Derek Loeser and Lesley Weaver, said in a joint statement.
Meta has admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement, which is subject to approval by a federal judge in San Francisco. The company said in a statement that the settlement was “in the best interests of our community and our shareholders.”
“Over the past three years, we have revised our approach to privacy and implemented a comprehensive privacy program,” said Meta.
Cambridge Analytica, now defunct, worked for Donald Trump’s successful 2016 presidential campaign and gained access to the personal data of millions of Facebook accounts for the purpose of profiling and targeting voters.
Cambridge Analytica obtained this information without users’ consent from a researcher who had allowed Facebook to deploy an app on its social media network that collected data from millions of its users.
The ensuing Cambridge Analytica scandal led to government investigations into its privacy practices, lawsuits, and a high-profile hearing in the US Congress where Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg was grilled by lawmakers.
In 2019, Facebook agreed to pay $5 billion to settle a Federal Trade Commission investigation into its privacy practices and $100 million to settle SEC claims that it was investors over cheated on the misuse of user data.
The Attorney General’s investigation is ongoing and the company is fighting a lawsuit brought by the Attorney General of Washington, DC
Thursday’s settlement sparked claims by Facebook users that the company violated various federal and state laws by allowing app developers and business partners to widely collect their personal information without their consent.
The users’ lawyers claimed that Facebook misled them into believing they could retain control of personal data when in reality it allowed access to thousands of preferred outsiders.
Facebook argued that its users have no legitimate privacy interest in information they share with friends on social media. But U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria called that view “so wrong” and largely allowed the case to move forward in 2019.
Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Adaptation by Muralikumar Anantharaman
Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.