Dec 23 (Reuters) – Facebook owner Meta Platforms Inc (META.O) The social media giant has agreed to pay $725 million to settle a class-action lawsuit accusing it of allowing third parties, including Cambridge Analytica, to access users’ personal information.
The proposed solution, which is expressed in a filed in court Late Thursday, Facebook will settle a long-running lawsuit over its 2018 disclosure that it allowed British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica to access data on 87 million users.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs have described the proposed settlement as the largest settlement ever reached in a US data privacy class action and the largest amount Meta has ever paid to settle a class action lawsuit.
“This historic settlement will provide meaningful relief to the class in this complex and innovative privacy case,” said Derek Loeser and Leslie Weaver, lead attorneys for the plaintiffs, in a joint statement.
Meta pleaded not guilty as part of a settlement plan 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 presidential campaign in 2016 and accessed personal information from millions of Facebook accounts for voter profiling and targeting purposes.
Cambridge Analytica obtained that information without users’ consent from a researcher who allowed Facebook to use an app on its social media network.
The Cambridge Analytica scandal has sparked government investigations into its privacy practices, lawsuits and a high-level US congressional inquiry in which Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg was grilled by lawmakers.
In 2019, Facebook agreed to pay $5 billion to settle a Federal Trade Commission investigation into its privacy practices and allegations by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that it misled investors about its misuse of user data.
Investigations by state attorneys general are ongoing, and the company is fighting a lawsuit by the attorney general for Washington, D.C.
Thursday’s settlement broadly resolved claims 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.
Lawyers for users accused Facebook of misleading them into thinking they could retain control over personal data, when in fact it allowed thousands of willing outsiders to access it.
Facebook has argued that it has no legitimate privacy interest in the information its users share with friends on social media. But U.S. District Judge Vince Sapria called that view “grossly wrong” and allowed the case to move forward in 2019.
Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman
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