Facebook parent company Meta has agreed to pay $725 million to settle a long-running class-action lawsuit in the Cambridge Analytica data scandal that accused the world’s largest social media platform of giving access to millions of its users’ personal information without their consent.
The terms of the proposed settlement were disclosed in a court filing late on Thursday. However, this still needs to be approved by a judge in a San Francisco federal court, a hearing has been set for March of next year.
Plaintiffs alleged that Facebook “granted numerous third parties access to their Facebook content and information without their consent, and that Facebook failed to adequately monitor the third parties’ access to, and use of, that information,” according to the law firms behind the lawsuit.
The class action lawsuit was prompted in 2018 after Facebook revealed that it had allowed Cambridge Analytica, a British political consulting firm, to access the data of as many as 87 million Facebook users without their explicit consent.
“After more than four years of intensive litigation, the plaintiffs have achieved an extraordinary outcome on behalf of the class. The proposed settlement of $725,000,000 is the largest recovery ever achieved in a data privacy class action and the most Facebook has ever paid to resolve a private class action,” read the lawsuit.
“This historic settlement will provide meaningful relief to the class in this complex and novel privacy case,” Derek Loeser and Lesley Weaver, the lead lawyers for the plaintiffs, said in a joint statement.
What Is Cambridge Analytica Scandal?
Cambridge Analytica, now defunct, had played a key role in Donald Trump’s victorious presidential campaign in 2016, where in it obtained access to the personal information from millions of Facebook accounts without users’ consent, predominantly to be used for political advertising.
The British political consulting firm had hired a researcher to develop an app called “This Is Your Digital Life”, which was deployed by Facebook on its platform and harvested data from millions of its users.
Cambridge Analytica used the harvested data to build psychographic profiles, determining users’ personality traits based on their Facebook activity, which was then used to provide analytical assistance to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. The app ended up harvesting the data of up to 87 million Facebook profiles.
Information about the data misuse was disclosed in March 2018, which fuelled government investigations into Facebook’s privacy practices and lawsuits. In response, Facebook apologized for its role in data harvesting and the company’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified in front of Congress.
In July 2019, Facebook agreed to pay a $5 billion fine by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) due to its privacy violations. Around the same, the company also agreed to a $100 million settlement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission over claims that it misled investors about the risk of misuse of user data.
In October 2019, the company went on to pay a £500,000 fine to the UK Information Commissioner’s Office for exposing the data of its users to a “serious risk of harm”.
Since the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook has stopped allowing third parties to access data about users through their friends, and “has meaningfully enhanced its ability to restrict and monitor how third parties acquire and use Facebook users’ information, and developed more robust tools to tell users what information Facebook collects and shares about them”.