Meta Platforms has agreed to pay $725 million to settle a lengthy legal battle alleging Facebook illegally shared user data with research firm Cambridge Analytica.
It is “the largest settlement ever obtained in a privacy class action and the largest sum Facebook has ever paid to settle a private class action,” the plaintiffs said in a court filing late Thursday.
The settlement brings Meta one step closer to resolving the 2018 lawsuit filed by Facebook users after it was revealed that the British research firm linked to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign had access to the data of up to 87 million subscribers to the Facebook page social media network received . The agreement requires the approval of a federal judge overseeing the lawsuit.
Consumer advocates had used increasing leverage to break into the company’s internal records to back up their claims that Facebook failed to protect their personal information. Facebook’s parent company could have been on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars more if it went to court and lost the case.
“We have sought a settlement as it is in the best interests of our community and our shareholders,” Meta said in an emailed statement. “Over the last three years we have revised our data protection approach and implemented a comprehensive data protection program. We look forward to continuing to build services people love and trust, with privacy at the forefront.”
Since the case was filed, Facebook has denied third parties access to data about users about their friends, the plaintiffs said in a court filing detailing the settlement. The company has also strengthened its ability to limit and monitor how third parties collect and use Facebook users’ information and improved its methods of telling users what information Facebook collects and shares about them, according to the filing.
Last month, Google agreed to pay a total of $391.5 million to 40 US states to settle an investigation into controversial location tracking practices, which state officials have described as the largest such privacy agreement in US history. Separately, a judge last month approved a $90 million meta deal to settle a lawsuit over the use of browser cookies and Facebook’s Like button to track user activity.
Meta said in a court filing in August that it agreed to settle Cambridge Analytica’s lawsuit, but no terms were announced at the time. A filing filed a month earlier showed that Meta’s chief executive officer, Mark Zuckerberg, would have to be questioned for up to six hours by plaintiffs’ attorneys. The same filing indicated that former Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg would also have to testify.
Facebook had argued that it disclosed its practices in user agreements. It had also said that anyone who shares their information on a social network should not expect their privacy to be protected.