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Meta has agreed to pay $37.5 million to resolve a class action accusing it of collecting, storing and selling location data on Facebook users who opted out of tracking services on their smartphones.
The settlement covers roughly 70 million U.S. residents whose locations were identified through their IP addresses without permission, according to a motion for approval of the deal filed on Monday in California federal court. It follows a $90 million agreement in February to resolve a decade-old lawsuit over the company’s use of trackers to follow users after logging off of the platform.
In 2018, during the height of the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, Facebook was hit with dual class actions alleging it violated the privacy of users by covertly tracking them and monetizing their data by serving targeted advertisements. “Facebook’s disregard for Plaintiffs’ and the putative Class members’ privacy and its collection of their location data contrary to their privacy settings represents the latest chapter in its campaign of deception regarding collection and use of users’ personal information without their authorization for financial gain,” states the complaint.
After the cases were consolidated, U.S. District Judge James Donato dismissed one of them for lack of standing and dismissed most of the other for lack of injury. The complaint was amended to focus on contract, fraud and unjust enrichment claims. The users claimed that Facebook breached its policies and intentionally misled them as to whether it collected their location data by improperly collecting their IP addresses and using the information to infer their locations. The plaintiffs turned off “location services” on their phones for the Facebook app because they specifically didn’t want the company to track them, according to the suit.
Donato last year moved the case toward trial, rejecting Facebook’s claim that there was no breach of contract because its practices and policies are consistent. He wrote in the order, “The point is not well taken because the Court has already rejected its misrepresentation underpinnings.” The judge also allowed plaintiffs to seek disgorgement and nominal damages, which are typically set at $1 per class member.
Meta has denied any misconduct or violations of its terms of service. It declined to comment.
Attorneys for the users indicated they agreed to the settlement because they still face summary judgment and opposition to class certification along with the risk of losing at trial. They will seek up to $11.3 million of the settlement payment in fees. They didn’t immediately return requests for comment.
Meta has a long history with allegations of data violations. In 2019, the Federal Trade Commission levied a record $5 billion fine against Facebook as part of a settlement in connection with the company violating consumers’ privacy rights. The agency claimed that Facebook defied a prior 2012 FTC order by deceiving users about their ability to control the privacy of their personal information.
In February, Meta reached a $90 million settlement to resolve a class action alleging it used plug-ins to track users across third-party websites in violation of the federal Wiretap Act.
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