Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data breach lawsuit ends in 11th hour settlement

Facebook has dramatically agreed to settle a lawsuit for damages for allowing Cambridge Analytica to access the private data of tens of millions of users, four years after the Observer revealed the scandal that has mired the tech giant in repeated controversies.

A court filing reveals that Meta, Facebook’s parent company, has in principle settled for an undisclosed sum a long-running lawsuit that alleged Facebook was illegally sharing user data with the British analytics firm.

It follows revelations of big data misuse made by a Cambridge Analytica whistleblower in Observer in 2018, an expose that forced chief executive Mark Zuckerberg to testify before Congress and resulted in the social media company being fined billions of pounds. Within days of the article’s publication, Facebook’s stock price plummeted by the equivalent of more than $100 billion.

However, some expressed dismay that the timing of the potential settlement would prevent Zuckerberg and Meta’s outgoing chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, from being called to testify for up to six hours of questioning by plaintiffs’ attorneys on next month.

Carole Cadwalladr, the Observer journalist whose Facebook and Cambridge Analytica investigations also helped inspire the Netflix film The Great Hacksaid: “It is a measure of Zuckerberg’s desperation to avoid answering questions about Facebook’s cover-up of the Cambridge Analytica data breach that Facebook settled this case just days away from his cross-examination under oath during six o’clock.”

Carole Cadwalladr.
Carole Cadwalladr. Photography: Antonio Olmos / The Observer

It has emerged that Zuckerberg and Sandberg, who recently announced she will step down in the fall, will be interviewed, with depositions due to take place from September 20.

The latest developments follow a separate lawsuit last year that alleged Facebook paid $4.9 billion more than necessary to the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) as part of a settlement over the scandal. of Cambridge Analytica in order to protect Zuckerberg.

The lawsuit alleged that the size of the $5 billion settlement was motivated by a desire to prevent the Facebook founder from being named in the FTC complaint.

Cadwalladr added: “Facebook has proven that it is willing to pay almost any amount of money to prevent its executives from answering these questions. This settlement comes on top of the $5 billion they have already paid to the FTC.

“The truth will come out one day – but today is not that day.”

In the new court filing, disclosed Friday evening, financial terms or preliminary settlement details are not given.

The Observer asked Facebook and its attorneys to share more details about the tentative settlement, but it declined to respond.

However, the filing asks the federal court judge in San Francisco to stay the class action lawsuit for 60 days until attorneys for the plaintiffs and Facebook finalize a written settlement.

The four-year-old lawsuit, brought by a group of Facebook users, alleged that Facebook violated consumer privacy laws by sharing users’ personal data with other companies such as Cambridge Analytica, which claimed bankrupt two months after the Observer expose.

Facebook users sued the company in 2018 after the British analytics firm emerged linked to former US President Donald Trump’s successful 2016 campaign for the White House, which gained access to Facebook data. 87 million social media network subscribers.

It was thought that Meta could have been forced to pay hundreds of millions of dollars if he had lost the case.

Facebook has previously said its privacy practices are consistent with its disclosures and “do not support any legal claims”.

Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data breach lawsuit ends in 11th hour settlement

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