Meta forced to pay $725m over Cambridge Analytica data scandal

One of the biggest political controversies of the modern age ends with a hefty fine for the Facebook parent company, which gave app developers access to information from users’ friends.

Facebook owner Meta Platforms has agreed to pay $725m to resolve a class-action privacy lawsuit over a data breach linked to political consultancy Cambridge Analytica.

The case revolved around accusations that Facebook had broken US state and federal laws by failing to prevent app developers harvesting user data without their consent. 

The case claimed that users were misled into believing that the company offered them control over their personal data, the lawsuit argued, when in fact “Facebook, despite its promises to restrict access, continued to allow a preferred list of app developers to access the information of users’ friends”.

Using psychographic data for political campaigns

Cambridge Analytica had claimed in its marketing material to have “5,000+ data points per individual on 230 million adult Americans”, suggesting it could micro-target individuals with political messaging using a psychographic database to help influence voting intentions for politcal campigns.

The proposed fine is the largest in a US data privacy class action.

In response Meta, which did not admit wrongdoing, said it had "revamped" its approach to privacy over the past three years.

In a statement, the company said settling was "in the best interest of our community and shareholders". "We look forward to continuing to build services people love and trust with privacy at the forefront." 

Previous fines 

Facebook previously sought to dismiss the lawsuit in September 2019, claiming users have no legitimate privacy interest in any information they make available to their friends on social media.

This settlement agreement comes after Facebook paid $5bn to settle a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) case over user data mishandling and the Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2022, and an additional $100m to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for misleading investors about the scandal.

Attorneys Derek Loeser and Lesley Weaver also added that the landmark settlement will provide “significant relief” to plaintiffs in this “complex and groundbreaking” privacy case.

The agreement is still subject to the judge’s approval for final execution.