Meta, the parent company of Facebook, agreed to pay $725 million to settle a class-action lawsuit accusing the social media giant of selling data to third parties without users’ consent.
The proposed settlement, pending a judge’s approval, would be the largest ever of a privacy class action in the United States, according to a Dec. 23 press release from Keller Rohrback, a law firm representing the plaintiffs in the case.
The lawsuit, which was first filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in 2018, arose out of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. In July 2019, Facebook reached a groundbreaking $5 billion settlement with the Federal Trade Commission for privacy violations related to the matter, in addition to paying a $100 million fine imposed by the Securities and Exchange Commission for misleading disclosures regarding the risk of misuse of Facebook user data.
“We pursued a settlement as it’s in the best interest of our community and shareholders,” said a Meta spokesperson in an emailed statement regarding the proposed class-action resolution. “Over the last three years, we revamped our approach to privacy and implemented a comprehensive privacy program. We look forward to continuing to build services people love and trust with privacy at the forefront.”
Meta entered into the settlement without admitting or denying any wrongdoing.
According to the complaint, the social media giant “made it difficult and sometimes impossible for users to prevent Facebook from publishing their content and information to third-party applications.”
The company did this through misleading privacy controls, specifically for third-party applications, according to the complaint.
“Facebook shared information with whitelisted apps and business partners secretly and at its own discretion, driven by its business interests, not users’ privacy interests,” the complaint stated, adding through its privacy controls and public statements, Facebook “created an expectation of privacy for reasonable users who believed that the privacy controls actually operated as Facebook said they did.”
Facebook took no action to ensure app developers followed its platform and privacy policies, according to the complaint.