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 allowing third parties, including Cambridge Analytica, to access to users’ personal information.
The proposed settlement, revealed in a court filing late Thursday, would resolve a long-running lawsuit prompted by revelations in 201[ads1]8 that Facebook had allowed British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica to access the data of as many as 87 million users.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs called the proposed settlement the largest ever reached in a US privacy class action and the most Meta has ever paid to settle a class action.
“This historic settlement will provide meaningful relief to the class in this complex and novel privacy case,” the plaintiffs’ lead attorneys, Derek Loeser and Lesley Weaver, said in a joint statement.
Meta did not admit wrongdoing as part of 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 interest of our community and shareholders.”
“Over the past three years, we’ve revamped 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, accessing personal information from millions of Facebook accounts for the purpose of selective profiling and targeting.
Cambridge Analytica obtained this information without users’ consent from a researcher who had been allowed by Facebook to distribute an app on its social media network that harvested data from millions of its users.
The subsequent Cambridge Analytica scandal led to government investigations into its privacy practices, lawsuits and a high-profile US congressional hearing where Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg was grilled by lawmakers.
In 2019, Facebook agreed to pay $5 billion to resolve a Federal Trade Commission investigation into its privacy practices and $100 million to settle US Securities and Exchange Commission allegations that it misled investors about the misuse of users’ data.
Investigations by state attorneys general are ongoing, and the company is fighting a lawsuit from the attorney general for Washington, DC
Thursday’s settlement resolved allegations by Facebook users that the company violated various federal and state laws by allowing app developers and business partners to harvest their personal data without their consent on a widespread basis.
The users’ lawyers alleged that Facebook misled them into believing they could retain control over personal data, when in fact it allowed thousands of preferred outsiders to access it.
Facebook argued that users have no legitimate privacy interest in information they have shared with friends on social media. But U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria called that view “so wrong” and in 2019 largely let the case go forward.
Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman
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Nate Raymond reports on the federal judiciary and litigation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.