Facebook settles lawsuit over tracking users

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The decade-old class-action suit is one of the largest for the social media giant

Facebook’s parent company Meta has agreed to make a $90 million payment to settle a lawsuit filed 10 years ago. The case alleges that the social network violated users’ privacy through a browser plug-in that let it track them even after they logged off from its website.

The settlement between Meta and the plaintiffs, which was submitted on Monday in the San Francisco federal court, is subject to a judge’s approval. If it goes through, it will be one of the 10 biggest class-action data privacy settlements ever, according to the document.

The lawsuit alleges that, between April 2010 and September 2011, Facebook violated privacy and wiretapping laws by using plug-ins to store cookies tracking users’ visits to third-party websites that contained “Like” buttons. The social media platform had users’ permission to track them while they were logged in but promised to stop when they logged out.

The $90 million compensation sum will be distributed among affected users. As part of the settlement, Facebook also agreed to delete data improperly collected through the practice.

“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,” a Meta spokesperson told CNN. The company has denied any wrongdoing as part of the deal.

The lawsuit was dismissed in 2017 when a federal judge said plaintiffs had failed to show they had a reasonable expectation of privacy or that they suffered economic harm. The plaintiffs appealed the dismissal and in 2020 a federal appeals court revived the case, saying there was economic harm in such a situation.

Facebook has been mired in legal battles for years. Last year, Mark Zuckerberg’s company agreed to pay $650 million to settle another privacy lawsuit over collection of biometric data without prior notification and written consent. On Monday, the Texas attorney general announced the state is suing Meta over Facebook’s now-defunct facial recognition program.

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