Meta, Facebook’s parent company, agreed to pay $90 million to settle a 2012 lawsuit accusing the company of tracking users even after they logged out of their accounts.
The settlement was submitted for approval Monday evening in the US District Court for the Northern District of California. It is still awaiting final approval from the court. Plaintiffs affected by Facebook’s improper data tracking will receive portions of the $90 million. Meta will also be required to delete all of the data it wrongfully collected from those users.
Reached for comment, Meta spokesperson Drew Pusateri told The Verge, “Reaching a settlement in this case, which is more than a decade old, is in the best interest of our community and our shareholders and we’re glad to move past this issue.”
The lawsuit was dismissed in June 2017 after a federal judge said that the plaintiffs failed to show that they had a reasonable expectation of privacy or suffered financial damages. But in a 2020 opinion, a federal appeals court revived the case, ruling that Facebook’s data collection did create “economic harm” and that this alleged data collection required explicit user consent specified under the Wiretap Act. Facebook appealed these decisions to the Supreme Court which declined to take up the case last year, leaving the Ninth Circuit ruling in place.
“Even before the Settlement was reached, this litigation had already profoundly improved privacy rights. The Ninth Circuit clarified that when personal data is unlawfully copied and monetized, the result is economic harm (not just privacy harm) even if the value of the data in plaintiffs’ hands does not diminish,” the settlement proposal said.
According to the settlement, users who visited websites that included a Facebook “like” button between April 2010 and September 2011 will be covered, assuming the settlement is approved by the court.
If approved, this settlement would be one of the largest data privacy settlements in US history. But Facebook has faced even larger penalties in the past over alleged data privacy violations. Last February, a federal judge approved a $650 million Facebook class action privacy settlement affecting over 1.6 million members. The lawsuit accused Facebook of violating the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act over the platform’s use of facial recognition in photo-tagging.