Meta’s Facebook is slowly becoming a synonym to the word ‘fine’ as the tech giant keeps has been coughing up millions of dollars in fines or settlements at regular intervals; all due to the issues related to users’ privacy violations.
In the latest development, Meta has agreed to settle nearly a decade-old case which accused Facebook (now Meta) to keep tracking users even after they logged off from the platform without their consent.
Meta has reached an agreement to pay $90-million in a settlement of a lawsuit that lasted for ten years alleging Facebook for tracking users’ activities on the internet even after they had logged off the site.
The settlement proposal was filed late on Monday and is still awaiting court approval. If the settlement is approved, it could be among the top 10 largest class-action data privacy settlements to date, as per the agreement.
The lawsuit filed in 2012 claims that between April 2010 and September 2011, Facebook violated privacy and wiretapping regulations by placing plug-ins to store cookies that tracked users’ visits to third-party websites which included “like” buttons. The social media website took consent from millions of users to track their visits only while they logged in. However, the site continued to track users even after they logged off from the social network.
The $90 million fine that Meta would pay would be split among the affected users. However, it’s not yet clear how those affected users would be identified. Apart from the $90 million settlement, Facebook has also agreed to erase data it has obtained by tracking users in an illegitimate way.
Meta did not respond immediately to an inquiry from Dazeinfo.
“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,” says Meta’s spokesperson while talking to another media company.
Interestingly, in the agreement, Meta refuted all allegations and denied any wrongdoing.
Earlier, the case was dismissed in the year 2017 after a federal judge found that the plaintiffs had failed to prove they had a reasonable expectation of privacy or were harmed economically. However, in the year 2020, the federal appeals court brought back the case to trial stating that there was economic harm in this type of situation. Facebook attempted to take up the case to the Supreme Court which not only declined the request, resulting in the decision of the federal appeals court remains intact.
This is not the first time Facebook has to cough up a sizeable amount to settle a case or to pay a fine slapped on it. In January 2021, Facebook agreed to pay $650 million in settlement of another privacy suit alleging that the ‘tagging feature’ of Facebook violated the Illinois law that prohibits the gathering of biometric information without prior notice or written permission from users. Two days back Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton revealed that the state was looking to sue Meta over the company’s now-defunct facial recognition feature.
In July 2019, FTC slapped a fine of record-breaking $5 billion on Facebook for users’ privacy-related issues. This was the largest ever penalty imposed by authorities on any company for violating consumers’ privacy. It was almost 20 times greater than the largest privacy or data security penalty ever imposed worldwide.