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Facebook parent Meta pays $725M to settle Cambridge Analytica suit

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Facebook owner Meta Platforms has agreed to pay $725 million to resolve a class-action lawsuit accusing the social media giant of allowing third parties, including Cambridge Analytica, to access users’ personal information.

The proposed settlement, which was disclosed in a court filing late Thursday, would resolve a long-running lawsuit prompted by revelations in 2018 that Facebook had allowed the British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica to access data of as many as 87 million users.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs called the proposed settlement the most important to ever be achieved in a US data privacy class motion and essentially the most that Meta has ever paid to resolve a class-action lawsuit.

The following Cambridge Analytica scandal fueled government investigations into its privacy practices, lawsuits and a high-profile congressional hearing where Meta chief executive Mark Zuckerberg was grilled by lawmakers.AFP via Getty Images

“This historic settlement will provide meaningful relief to the category on this complex and novel privacy case,” the lead lawyers for the plaintiffs, Derek Loeser and Lesley Weaver, said in a joint statement.

Meta didn’t admit wrongdoing as a part of the settlement, which is subject to the approval of a federal judge in San Francisco. The corporate said in a press release that settling was “in the very best interest of our community and shareholders.”

Graphic from the Cambridge Analytica website Cambridge Analytica, now defunct, worked for Donald Trump’s successful presidential campaign in 2016.AP

“Over the past three years we 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 gained access to the private information of thousands and thousands of Facebook accounts for the needs of voter profiling and targeting.

Cambridge Analytica obtained that information without users’ consent from a researcher who had been allowed by Facebook to deploy an app on its social media network that harvested data from thousands and thousands of its users.

The ensuing Cambridge Analytica scandal fueled government investigations into its privacy practices, lawsuits and a high-profile congressional hearing where Meta chief executive Mark Zuckerberg was grilled by lawmakers.

Facebook and Meta logosMeta didn’t admit wrongdoing as a part of the settlement, which is subject to the approval of a federal judge in San Francisco.AFP via Getty Images

In 2019, Facebook agreed to pay $5 billion to resolve a Federal Trade Commission probe into its privacy practices and $100 million to settle Securities and Exchange Commission claims that it misled investors in regards to the misuse of users’ data.

Investigations by state attorneys general are ongoing, and the corporate is fighting a lawsuit by the attorney general for Washington, DC.

Thursday’s settlement resolved claims by Facebook users that the corporate violated various federal and state laws by letting app developers and business partners harvest their personal data without their consent on a widespread basis.

The users’ lawyers alleged that Facebook misled them into considering they might keep control over personal data, when in reality it let 1000’s of preferred outsiders gain access.

Facebook argued its users don’t have any legitimate privacy interest in information they shared with friends on social media. But US District Judge Vince Chhabria called that view “so unsuitable” and in 2019 largely allowed the case to maneuver forward.

The settlement covers an estimated 250 million to 280 million Facebook users, in keeping with Thursday’s court filing. How much a person user receives will rely on how many individuals submit valid claims for a share of the settlement.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs say they plan to ask the judge to award them as much as 25% of the settlement as attorneys’ fees, equaling about $181 million.

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