Dec. 23 (Reuters) – Facebook owner Meta Platforms Inc. (META.O) agreed to pay $725 million to settle a class action lawsuit accusing the social media giant of allowing third parties, including Cambridge Analytica, access to users’ personal information.
The proposed settlement, which was disclosed in a court file Late on Thursday, it would settle a longstanding lawsuit sparked by revelations in 2018 that Facebook had allowed British political consultancy Cambridge Analytica access to data on up to 87 million users.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs called the proposed settlement the largest ever in a US data privacy class action lawsuit and the most Meta has ever paid to settle a class action lawsuit.
“This landmark settlement will provide significant relief to the class in this complex and novel privacy case,” lead attorneys for the plaintiffs, Derek Loeser and Lesley Weaver, said in a joint statement.
Meta did not admit wrongdoing as part of the deal, which is subject to approval by a federal judge in San Francisco. The company said in a statement that the deal was “in the best interest of our community and shareholders.”
“Over the past three years, we have renewed our approach to privacy and implemented a comprehensive privacy program,” Meta said.
Cambridge Analytica, now defunct, worked for Donald Trump’s successful 2016 presidential campaign and gained access to the personal information of millions of Facebook accounts in order to profile and select voters.
Cambridge Analytica obtained that information without the consent of users from a researcher who had been allowed by Facebook to implement an application on its social network that collected data from millions of its users.
The ensuing Cambridge Analytica scandal spurred government investigations into its privacy practices, lawsuits, and a high-profile hearing in the US Congress where Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg was questioned 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 claims by the US Securities and Exchange Commission that it misled consumers. investors about the misuse of user data.
Investigations by state attorneys general are ongoing and the company is fighting a lawsuit from the Washington, D.C. attorney general.
Thursday’s settlement resolved claims by Facebook users that the company violated various federal and state laws by allowing app developers and business partners to collect their personal data without their consent across the board.
Lawyers for the users alleged that Facebook misled them into thinking they could maintain control over personal data, when in fact it allowed thousands of preferred outsiders to gain access.
Facebook argued that its users do not have a legitimate privacy interest in the information they share with friends on social networks. But US District Judge Vince Chhabria called that opinion “sorely misguided” and in 2019 allowed the case to largely move forward.
Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Edited by Muralikumar Anantharaman
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