Facebook’s corporate parent has agreed to pay $725 million to settle a lawsuit alleging that the world’s largest social media platform allowed the personal information of millions of its users to be fed to Cambridge Analytica, a firm that supported Donald Trump’s successful presidential campaign in 2016.
Meta Platforms, the holding company for Facebook and Instagram, disclosed the terms of the settlement in court documents filed late Thursday. It will still need to be approved by a judge at a March federal court hearing in San Francisco.
The case arose in the wake of revelations in 2018 that Cambridge Analytica, a firm with ties to Trump political strategist Steve Bannon, had paid a Facebook app developer for access to the personal information of approximately 87 million Facebook users. This information was then used to target US voters during the 2016 campaign, culminating in Trump’s election as the 45th President of the United States.
The outpouring of outrage over the revelations resulted in a contrite Zuckerberg being grilled by US lawmakers during a high-profile congressional hearing, as well as calls for people to delete their Facebook accounts. Despite the fact that Facebook’s growth has slowed as more people connect and entertain themselves on rival services such as TikTok, the social network still has approximately 2 billion users worldwide, including nearly 200 million in the United States and Canada.
The lawsuit, which sought certification as a class action on behalf of Facebook users, claimed the privacy breach demonstrated Facebook is a “data broker and surveillance firm” in addition to a social network.
The parties reached a temporary settlement agreement in August, just weeks before a Sept. 20 deadline for Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his long-time chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, to submit to depositions.
The Menlo Park, California-based company said in a statement Friday that it pursued a settlement because it was in the best interests of its community and shareholders.
“We revamped our approach to privacy and implemented a comprehensive privacy programme over the last three years,” said spokesperson Dina El-Kassaby Luce. “We look forward to continuing to build services that people love and trust while keeping their privacy in mind.”