In order to settle a class-action lawsuit accusing the social media behemoth of granting access to user data to outside parties, such as Cambridge Analytica, Facebook owner Meta Platforms Inc. has agreed to pay $725 million.
The long-running lawsuit brought on by revelations in 2018 that Facebook had permitted the British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica to access the data of as many as 87 million users would be resolved by the proposed settlement, which was revealed in a court filing late on Thursday.
The proposed settlement was described as the largest ever reached in a US data privacy class action and as the most Meta has ever paid to settle a class action lawsuit by the plaintiffs’ attorneys.
“This historic settlement will provide meaningful relief to the class in this complex and novel privacy case,” the lead lawyers for the plaintiffs, Derek Loeser and Lesley Weaver, said in a joint statement.
The now-defunct Cambridge Analytica contributed to Donald Trump’s successful presidential campaign in 2016, using the data from millions of Facebook accounts to target and profile voters.
Without the users’ permission, Cambridge Analytica obtained that data from a researcher who was given permission by Facebook to use an app on its social media network to harvest data from millions of its users.
Government inquiries into Cambridge Analytica’s privacy practises, lawsuits, and a highly publicised US congressional hearing where Mark Zuckerberg was cross-examined by lawmakers were all sparked by the scandal that followed.
In 2019, Facebook agreed to pay $5 billion to settle an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission into its privacy practises and $100 million to resolve charges that it misled investors about the misuse of user data.
The company is defending itself against a lawsuit brought by the attorney general of Washington, DC, as well as ongoing investigations by state attorneys general.
The settlement announced on Thursday addressed complaints from Facebook users that the company had illegally harvested their personal data on a large scale without their permission from app developers and business partners.
According to the users’ attorneys, Facebook misled them into believing they could maintain control over personal data when, in reality, it allowed thousands of predetermined outsiders access.
Facebook claimed that its users’ information shared with friends on social media is not subject to any legitimate privacy interest. However, US District Judge Vince Chhabria referred to that viewpoint as “so wrong” and largely permitted the case to proceed in 2019.
According to a court document filed on Thursday, the settlement applies to between 250 million and 280 million Facebook users. The number of individuals who submit legitimate claims for a share of the settlement will determine how much each user receives.