Meta Pays $725M To Settle Facebook Privacy Suit

Facebook’s corporate parent company Meta has agreed to pay $725 million to settle a long-running lawsuit that accused the social network of allowing third parties, including Cambridge Analytica, to access users' private data and support Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign.

The settlement is the largest recovery ever for a data privacy class action lawsuit and is the most Facebook has ever paid out to settle a private class action. Facebook has not admitted to any wrong action as part of the settlement.

In August, the social media giant had reportedly reached a preliminary agreement regarding the lawsuit, however, the terms and amount were kept private until now. 

Plaintiffs alleged that Facebook “granted numerous third parties access to their Facebook content and information without their consent, and that Facebook failed to adequately monitor the third parties’ access to, and use of, that information,” according to the law firm behind the lawsuit.

The lawsuit was initiated in 2018, when Facebook was accused of violating privacy rules by sharing data with third parties. The information was ultimately accused of being used to steer US voters in favor of Donald Trump in the 2016 elections. The case was subsequently broadened to focus on Facebook’s overall data-sharing practices which focused on Cambridge Analytica, which has since shut down, which collected and exploited the personal data of 87 million Facebook users without their consent. That information was allegedly used to develop software to steer US voters in support of Trump.

Facebook has not admitted any wrongdoing as part of the settlement, which still requires approval by a judge in the San Francisco division of the US District Court. "We pursued a settlement as it's in the best interest of our community and shareholders... Over the last three years we revamped our approach to privacy and implemented a comprehensive privacy program." Meta said in a statement.

Besides the class action settlement, Facebook has agreed to pay $5 billion to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission following the scandal. In response to a similar inquiry, Facebook has also paid $100 million to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Both cases arose because the company had previously agreed to inform users when their data was being shared with third parties. FTC and SEC findings alleged that Facebook either failed to do so or allegedly used misleading tactics.

Facebook has since removed access to its data from thousands of apps suspected of abusing it, restricted the amount of information available to developers, and made it easier for users to calibrate restrictions on personal data sharing.

Last year, Meta paid US Federal authorities a fine $90m in settlement after Facebook kept tracking users' internet activity after they'd logged off from the platform.

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