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Facebook parent Meta agrees to pay $725 million to settle privacy lawsuit: NPR

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg walks through the company’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California, April 4, 2013. Facebook parent company Meta has agreed to pay $725 million to settle a privacy class action lawsuit.

Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP


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Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP


Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg walks through the company’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California, April 4, 2013. Facebook parent company Meta has agreed to pay $725 million to settle a privacy class action lawsuit.

Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

Facebook’s parent company Meta has agreed to pay $725 million to settle a class-action lawsuit alleging it improperly shared user information with Cambridge Analytica, the data analytics firm used by the Trump campaign.

The proposed solution is the result of a 2018 discovery that up to 87 million people’s information may have been inaccessible a third-party firm, which filed for bankruptcy in 2018. This is the largest recovery ever in a data privacy class action and the most Facebook has paid to settle a private class action, attorneys for the plaintiffs said in a filing Thursday.

Meta has not admitted wrongdoing and claims that its users consented to the practice and suffered no actual harm. Meta spokeswoman Dina El-Kassabi Loos said in a statement that the settlement was “in the best interests of its community and shareholders” and that the company had changed its approach to privacy.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs said about 250 million to 280 million people could be eligible for payments as part of the class-action settlement. The amount of individual payments will depend on the number of people who come forward with valid claims.

“The amount of the award is particularly striking given that Facebook argued that its users consented to the practices at issue and that the class suffered no actual damages,” the plaintiffs’ attorneys it was stated in the court filing.

The leak of Facebook data to Cambridge Analytica has sparked a global backlash and government investigations into the company’s privacy practices in recent years.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg gave high-profile testimony in 2020 before Congress and in a Federal Trade Commission privacy case for which Facebook also agreed to a $5 billion fine. The tech giant also agreed to pay $100 million to settle claims by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that Facebook misled investors about the risks of misusing user data.

Facebook first became aware of the leak in 2015, tracing the breach to a Cambridge University psychology professor who collected data from Facebook users through the app to create a personality test and passed it on to Cambridge Analytica.

Cambridge Analytica has been in the business of creating psychological profiles of American voters so that campaigns can tailor their offers to different people. The firm was used by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s 2016 presidential campaign and later by former President Donald Trump’s campaign after he secured the Republican nomination.

According to a source close to the Trump campaign’s data operations, Cambridge Analytica employees did not use psychological profiling for his campaign, instead focusing on more basic goals, such as increasing online fundraising and reaching undecided voters.

Whistleblower Christopher Wylie then exposed the firm for its role in Brexit in 2019. He said Cambridge Analytica used Facebook user data to target people susceptible to conspiracy theories and persuade British voters to support leaving the European Union. Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon was vice president, and American hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer owned most of the firm at the time.

The court scheduled a hearing for March 2, 2023, when a federal judge is expected to give final approval to the settlement.

NPR’s Bobby Allin contributed reporting.

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