Four years after the Observer revealed the scandal that dogged the internet giant in ongoing controversy, Facebook has shockingly agreed to settle a lawsuit demanding damages for providing Cambridge Analytica access to the private data of tens of millions of users.
According to a court document, Meta, the parent company of Facebook, has essentially settled a long-running case alleging that Facebook improperly shared user data with the UK analysis firm for an undisclosed price.
It follows accusations of widespread data misuse revealed by a Cambridge Analytica whistleblower to the Observer in 2018, an exposé that pushed chief executive Mark Zuckerberg to testify before Congress and resulted in a multibillion-pound fine for the social media business. Facebook’s share price fell by more than $100 billion in the days following the publication of the news.
Days after the article was published, Facebook‘s stock price dropped by an amount greater than $100 billion.
Some, however, expressed disappointment that Sheryl Sandberg, the departing COO of Zuckerberg and Meta, wouldn’t be forced to appear next month during up to six hours of questioning by plaintiffs’ attorneys due to the timing of the proposed deal.
Carole Cadwalladr, an Observer journalist whose Facebook and Cambridge Analytica findings inspired the Netflix film The Great Hack, stated: “It is a measure of how desperate Zuckerberg is to avoid answering questions about Facebook’s cover-up of the Cambridge Analytica data breach that Facebook has settled this case just days away from him being cross-examined under oath for six hours.”
It was revealed that Sandberg and Zuckerberg would be deposed beginning on September 20. Sandberg just said she would be leaving her post in the fall.
The most recent developments come after a separate complaint from last year that alleged Facebook paid the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) $4.9 billion more than necessary as part of a settlement regarding the Cambridge Analytica scandal in order to shield Zuckerberg.
According to the lawsuit, the $5 billion settlement amount was chosen in order to keep Facebook’s creator from being named in the FTC complaint.
Cadwalladr added: “Facebook has proved that they are prepared to pay almost any sum of money to avoid their executives answering these questions. This settlement comes on top of the $5 billion they already paid the FTC.
“The truth will come out one day – but today is not that day.”
Financial information or specifics of the tentative settlement are not provided in the new court document, which was made public late on Friday.
Facebook and its attorneys were contacted by The Observer to provide additional information about the in-principle deal, but they chose not to.
The filing does, however, request that the judge in the San Francisco federal court stay the class action case for 60 days while the plaintiffs’ and Facebook’s legal teams work out a formal settlement.
A group of Facebook users filed a four-year-old complaint alleging that Facebook had shared user personal data with companies like Cambridge Analytica, which filed for bankruptcy two months after the Observer exposé, in violation of consumer privacy laws.
After it was revealed that a British analytics business linked to the successful 2016 presidential campaign of former US president Donald Trump had access to the data of up to 87 million Facebook users, users of the social media platform sued the company in 2018.
It was believed that if Meta had lost the case, it could have been forced to pay hundreds of millions of dollars.
As previously said, Facebook’s privacy policies “do not support any legal claims” and are in line with its disclosures.