December 23 (Reuters) – Facebook owner Meta Platforms Inc (GOL.O) has agreed to pay $725 million to settle a lawsuit accusing the social media giant of allowing third parties, including Cambridge Analytica, to access users’ personal data.
The proposed settlement disclosed in A lawsuit Late Thursday, Facebook will settle a long-running lawsuit stemming from revelations in 2018 that it allowed British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica to access the data of 87 million users.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs called the proposed settlement the largest in a data privacy class action in the U.S. and the largest settlement 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,” Derek Loeser and Lesley Weaver, lead attorneys for the plaintiffs, said in a joint statement.
Meta pleaded not guilty 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 is “in the best interests of our community and our 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 and accessed personal data from millions of Facebook accounts for voter profiling and targeting.
Cambridge Analytica obtained this information from a researcher who allowed Facebook to deploy an app on the social media network that collected millions of users’ data without users’ consent.
The subsequent Cambridge Analytica scandal fueled investigations into government privacy practices, lawsuits and high-profile US congressional hearings in which Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg was instigated 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 U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that it misled investors about its misuse of user data.
An investigation by the state attorney general is ongoing, and the company is fighting a lawsuit by the Washington attorney general.
Thursday’s settlement resolves allegations by Facebook users that the company violated various federal and state laws by allowing software developers and business partners to collect their personal data without their consent.
Users’ lawyers argued that Facebook tricked them into thinking they could control personal information, when in fact it allowed access to thousands of preferred outsiders.
Facebook has argued that it has no legitimate privacy interest in the information its users share with their friends on social media. But U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria called that opinion “deeply flawed” and largely allowed the case to move forward in 2019.
Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Edited by Muralikumar Anantharaman
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